We human beings can be a tough bunch to satisfy sometimes. Being as imaginative and aspirational as we are, we have plenty of ideas (God bless us) on what life should look like, feel like and taste like in order for peace, joy and happiness to be a reality. And often times, it seems that when we feel not quite satisfied with the reality of “what is” in our lives, we look to externals — outside things — to bring in the joy and flavor that we adamantly feel we lack, instead of taking a deeper and more detailed look at the brilliant tapestry that is already present in our lives in various areas, yet perhaps is being overlooked. Often, it seems that we look for something “out there” that we perceive as being “meatier” and more substantial, something we feel we’re missing, because perhaps there’d be more pleasure to be found if only we had it; and that seems like it could be a never-ending loop, a bit of a vicious circle. I wonder if there’d be more peace in life if pure flavor could be derived from what already is? Wouldn’t we feel less burdened if we realized that we’re exactly where we should be, have exactly what we should have, and are doing exactly what we should be doing in this particular moment in time in our lives? That, actually, we lack nothing, because all that is needed has already been given and is more delicious than we could ever have imagined if only we took a little taste of it? Talk about the burden being light, and learning what it means to find gratitude in every moment we have. And funny enough, it all kind of makes me think of a veggie burger, in a way.
What a pleasurable and deeply delicious thing a well-crafted veggie burger can be, what with all of the textured grains, spices, herbs and flavorful add-ins that are possible for it to contain. Meat is not part of the ingredient list, of course; but in a hearty and balanced veggie burger, it shouldn’t even be missed, as what actually is contained within the burger speaks so very eloquently and wonderfully for itself, lacking nothing. It’s always kind of interesting when I hear someone say that veggie burgers don’t taste enough like meat, or that it’s difficult to find a veggie burger that imitates the flavor and consistency/texture of meat. My though is, is it really supposed to? It’s a veggie burger. A meat burger has its own unique flavor and texture — truly unreproducible if we’re really going to be honest — just as a veggie burger should have its own. A good veggie burger is tender and textured on the inside, caramelized and “crusty” on the outside; the perfect combo for bringing out the natural flavors of what it’s made of. And with a slathering of creamy, Lemon-Garlic Mayo, some melted Jack cheese and fresh toppings, it’s perfectly delicious exactly as it is, with nothing “meatier” needed. Because really, what this tasty and unique sandwich is in and of itself, is exactly what makes it delicious, indeed.
Sometimes in life it can seem like quite a feat to find the deliciousness in what actually is and not yearn for something outside of the present reality that we imagine could make things taste so much better. Relief is found in savoring what we have before us in any given moment — appreciating it for what it brings — and fully experiencing the nuances and flavors that are contained in that very moment, which can beautifully surprise and inspire us if we allow them to. The idea that a veggie burger can be substantial and delectable enough in its own right, and appeal to the senses simply because the ingredients within it are truly tasty and can stand alone, just means that it’s being enjoyed for what it actually is: a dang good veggie burger. And like life, I think it’s quite delicious just as it is.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
“The Veggie Burger” topped with Jack Cheese on Toasted Wheat Bun with Creamy Lemon-Garlic Mayo
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Note: on it’s own, this patty mixture is vegan and soy free.
(Makes about 8, 6 oz patties)
• Canola oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press, divided use
¾ cup uncooked pearl barley
2 ½ cups water, plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 small ribs celery, finely chopped
½ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed, divided in half
3 oz sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), julienned and rehydrated (*see note)
¾ cup walnuts
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or desired amount)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
8 slices of Jack cheese (or however many depending on how many burgers)
8 wheat buns, toasted (or however many depending on how many burgers)
• Lemon-Garlic Mayo (recipe below)
• Lettuce leaves for topping
• Tomato slices for topping
• Red onion slices for topping
• Sprouts (optional)
*Soak the julienned sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for about 5-10 minutes to soften them a bit, then drain them.
**Know that creating a really delicious veggie burger takes some TLC, but the end result is very well worth it!
-Prepare the barley by placing a medium non-stick pot over medium heat; add in about 1 tablespoon of oil, and about 1 clove of the pressed garlic (about ½ teaspoon worth); when the garlic becomes aromatic, add in the pearl barley and toast it in the oil/garlic for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching; once the barley is slightly golden and toasted, add the 2 ½ cups of water, cover, and simmer gently for about 30-35 minutes until the barley is tender and the water absorbed; scoop the cooked barley out into a large bowl and allow to cool.
-While the barley is cooking, place a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add in about 1tablespoon of oil; add in the chopped onion and celery, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper, and saute the vegetables for about 2-3 minutes, or until they are a light golden-brown; next, add the remainder of the pressed garlic to this mixture, and stir together until the garlic becomes aromatic; spoon the onion/celery/garlic mixture into a bowl to allow it to cool, and set that aside for a few moments.
-In the same non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat, add about another 1-2 tablespoons of oil, and add in the mushrooms, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper; saute the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, or until they become a very deep, brown color and no water remains in them, and they begin to almost stick to the pan; spoon them into another bowl to cool, and set that aside for a few moments.
-Next, add half of the garbanzo beans into the bowl of a food processor along with the rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, plus the 2 tablespoons of water, and pulse/puree until they form a thick “paste” and are as smooth as possible (you may need to scrape the sides down a couple of times); turn that mixture out into the bowl with the cooled barely; next, add the remainder of the garbanzo beans back into the food processor, and pulse the beans (about 8 quick pulses) until just coarsely chopped; add those into the bowl with the barley and pureed garbanzo beans.
-Add the walnuts to the bowl of the food processor, and pulse until they are finely processed; add to the bowl with the barley and garbanzo beans.
-Add the slightly cooled celery/onion/garlic mixture into the bowl of the food processor, and pulse until finely chopped up; add the mixture to the bowl with the barley and other ingredients.
-Add the slightly cooled mushrooms into the bowl of the food processor, and pulse (about 4-5 quick pulses) just until very coarsely chopped; add those to the bowl with the barley and other ingredients.
-Next, add in the chopped parsley and cilantro, the soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, ground cumin and red pepper flakes, and using your hands, gently mix the seasoning into the barley mixture (you can taste the mixture to check if additional salt and pepper need to be added); add in the flour, and once again, carefully incorporate that into the barley mixture until it comes together and becomes slightly moist, with a slightly sticky consistency; cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to “set” a little bit, or even overnight.
-Once you are ready to cook the patties, add in the panko breadcrumbs, and once again, gently incorporate those into the mixture (you want the breadcrumbs to stay as crisp and fresh as possible, so add them in no more than about 30 minutes before you want to cook the patties).
-To form the patties, take about a 6 ounce portion of the mixture and form into a ball, gently pressing between your palms or on a cutting board to form a patty about 4” wide and about ½ – ¾” thick (you can form the patties and freeze any you don’t plan on eating – just wrap in plastic wrap and place into a freezer bag; when ready to eat, allow the patties to thaw, preferably overnight, and cook as usual); they may seem a bit fragile, but once you form them and press them together, they will hold—just be gentle.
-To cook the patties, place a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, drizzle in about 3-4 tablespoons of oil, and once the oil/pan it hot, add in about 4 patties (work in batches, if necessary); leave the patties undisturbed on that first side for about 5 minutes to allow a deep, brown, slightly charred “crust” to form (this is important for the texture and extra flavor); then gently flip the patties over using a spatula, and allow them to cook for another 5 minutes, adding the Jack cheese during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking time (you can cover the pan to help the cheese to melt); remove the patties from the pan and allow them to rest for about 4-5 minutes, as this will allow their inside to set and firm a bit more.
-To serve, add Lemon-Garlic Mayo to the toasted buns, add the veggie patty and top with favorite toppings.
Lemon-Garlic Mayo ingredients:
1 cup mayo
2 tablespoons non-fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon feta cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, paper removed and smashed
• Pinch of salt
• Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
-Place all ingredients into the bowl of the food processor, and process until completely smooth and creamy; spoon into a container and cover, and keep in fridge until ready to use.