Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I have a certain soft spot in my heart for veggie burgers. My first taste was in the Netherlands at, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, McDonald's. Intrigued by the mystery of a "groenteburger", I was soon biting into a tender, colorful patty that was pretty darned good. The following years saw me sampling the well-trod territory of Boca Burgers, Gardenburgers and Morning Star's varied line.

In all that time, I never really considered making my own. Enter Heidi Swanson's just-released cookbook, "Super Natural Cooking". In simple and approachable terms, she covers a variety of natural products, then translates them into mouth-watering recipes. It seemed irresistibly serendipitous that the first page I flipped open was the one that read "sprouted garbanzo burgers."

Not just your run'o'the mill veggie burger, Heidi's inspiration came from frustration: too many patties turned dusty and barren. She decided to make the 'meat' into the bun, and stick the toppings in between.

I'm sure you can guess that the main ingredient are sprouted garbanzo beans, but where to find them in town? I happened upon them in Harris Teeter's produce section, next to the pre-packaged herbs. Touted as crunchy sprouts, the 4-ounce unit contains a mixture of sprouted green peas, cow peas, red lentils and garbanzos. Perfect! I bought 2 packages (not quite enough), then made up the remainder with some drained-and-rinsed canned chickpeas.

After softening the sprouted beans in a steamer, I blitzed them in the food processor, along with the canned beans, eggs and a healthy pinch of salt.

Once proper chunky consistency had been achieved, I stirred in diced onions, cilantro, lemon zest, broccosprouts and breadcrumbs.

I left the mixture to sit for a few minutes, so as to absorb excess moisture, before patting them out in the familiar patty shape.

They firmed up quite nicely, and were soon cooking merrily away on the stove-top. After turning nicely golden, I set them on a rack to cool while chopping my fillings. I elected to go with microgreens, some juicy tomatoes, sauteed squash and another recipe from Heidi's book, crunchy slaw. Turning my attention back to the patties, I carefully began cutting-- the larger ones were easier, whereas the little cuties tended to go a bit crumbly.

I put together my first mini-burger and took a bite. The cilantro was barely detectable in the background, while the beany goodness was in full effect. Most interesting was the crunchy golden deliciousness of the outside, and the soft, luxuriously creamy interior.

It was really, really good, but I'm a fool for the crust. Since the pan was still warm, I slid two slices back in, cut side down. After just a couple of minutes over medium heat, they too developed that crunchy manna. This ain't a burger, this is a veritable veggie blessing!

Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers

2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion, chopped
Grated zest of one large lemon
1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try broccoli, onion, or alfalfa sprouts - optional)
1 cup toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or clarified butter)

If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes. Most of you will be using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus.
Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture.
At this point, you should have a moist mixture that you can easily form into twelve 1 1/2-inch-thick patties. I err on the moist side here, because it makes for a nicely textured burger. You can always add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Carefully cut each patty in half, insert your favorite fillings, and enjoy immediately.
Makes 12 mini burgers.
from Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking"

Shelley's notes: I used about half of a mixed-batch of sprouted beans, and made up the other half with canned garbanzos. My fillings included microgreens, sliced ripe tomatoes, sauteed squash and crunchy slaw (recipe follows). These are also just as great, uncut, served over fresh greens, and more of that lovely slaw salad.

Crunchy Slaw Salad

Creamy Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
splash of heavy cream

1 extra-crisp apple, peeled and cored
1 big squeeze of lemon juice
1 small Savoy cabbage
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

To make the dressing, whisk the apple cider and lemon juice together in a small bowl, season with a few pinches of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper, then gradually whisk in the olive oil followed by the cream. Set aside.

Shred the apple on the large holes of a box grater (or use the grater attachment of a food processor), then put the shreds in a bowl of cold water with the squeeze of lemon; this will keep the apple from browning. Cut the cabbage into quarters and core each section, then cut them into a very fine chiffonade. Just before serving, drain the apples and toss with the cabbage, walnuts, and dressing in a large bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Serve immediately.
Serves 4-6.
from Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking".

Shelley's notes: Unable to find any reputable savoys, I used equal parts green and napa cabbages. I also used pine nuts in place of the walnuts.


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