I am not a lover of veggie burgers. I am a lover of vegetables. I am a lover of meaty burgers. The very idea that vegetables should try to pretend to be meat makes me feel sad, but the reality of a lump of sad pretend meat on my plate makes me even sadder. All of that said, this veggie burger is delicious. It is savory, rich and complex and it has nice texture.
When I was in college I was a vegetarian and I ran an organic food coop buying club. There were no affordable health food stores near the school, so once a month I posted a sign in the student union inviting folks join me in ordering order bulk items from a nearby food coop for wholesale prices. If I could scare up a 400 dollar order, the coop would deliver the groceries to the campus by truck. Each month I would stock up on a very large quantity of a few items which I would split with the other kids who ordered….a 50 pound bag of dry chickpeas, a case of soy milk, sacks of loose leaf tea. Sometimes I would end buying a few adventurous items from one of the other folks who had ordered a case…this is how I ended up with a bunch of tempeh and a tub of barley miso It turns out, that I don’t really like tempeh. It has a strong fermented flavour that I found off-putting. It also turns out that barley miso has totally different in flavour from the sweet white miso that I was familiar with. Many failed food experiments came out of these purchases, but this veggie burger is a glowing success. If I do say so myself.
I decided that the tempeh needed a combination of strong, earthy, sweet and rich flavours like fennel, shiitake mushrooms, barely miso and swiss cheese. Of all the vegetarian food that I concocted in college, this is the recipe that I am most proud of. I make it again every few years and I think to myself, “This won’t be as good as you remember. It’s a veggie burger…how good can it be?” Well, this veggie burger is really, really good.
MARINADE FOR TEMPEH
- 1 Tb sesame oil
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use wheat free tamari)
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
- 16 oz tempeh
- Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture boils down a bit.
- While the marinade boils mince the tempeh.
- Combine the marinade and the minced tempeh. Tempeh is quite dry so it will soak all of the marinade right up.
ALMOND, FENNEL TEMPEH BURGERS (makes 6 burgers)
- 4 Tablespoons of mild oil, divided
- 1 large onion, minced
- 16 oz marinated tempeh
- 2 teaspoons dry ground fennel
- 2 diced carrots
- 1/4 cup miso (I have used sweet white miso and barley miso and both are delicious, but barley miso is not gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup pure almond butter
- 2 Tablespoons chili sesame oil
- 2 additional tablespoon of mild oil
- sesame seeds for dredging
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and fry until they are just translucent.
- Add the marinated tempeh, fennel and carrots. Fry until the carrots are tender. As it fries, continue to break the tempeh up with a fork or potato masher to achieve a finer texture.
- Transfer the tempeh mixture to a large bowl (set the skillet aside to use later for the mushroom topping). Add the miso, almond butter and chili sesame to the tempeh. When the tempeh is cool enough to handle, use your hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients and form 6 patties. They should hold together easily.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large clean skillet.
- While the oil is heating, dredge each side of the patties in sesame seeds. The patties are quite dry, so dredging may be the wrong word…press some sesame seeds into each side of the patties.
- Fry the patties for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the sesame seeds are golden. While the burgers are frying prepare the buns and the toppings.
SHITAKE MUSHROOM TOPPING AND SERVING
- 1 tablespoon mild oil
- 14 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- a pinch of salt
- 8 scallions, sliced
- a splash of soy sauce (I use wheat free tamari)
- 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
- about 4 oz grated swiss cheese
- 6 hamburger buns (I like to use Glutino gluten-free English muffins)
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat (you can use the same one that you fried the tempeh in).
- Add the mushrooms, salt and scallions to the skillet and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid.
- Add a splash of soy sauce or tamari and continue cooking the mushrooms until the liquid cooks away and they begin to sizzle.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the cilantro and swiss cheese. Cover the pot and let the cheese melt while you toast the buns.
- Place a burgers on their toasted buns and top with sauteed mushrooms and melted cheese. Serve with a salad…I recommend a green salad with avocado, radishes and japanese carrot dressing.
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