Imagine two hungry diners, out for an al fresco lunch at Portland’s Veritable Quandary on a lovely summer’s day. One orders a burger, a juicy medium rare with all the trimmings. The other orders the housemade veggie burger with caramelized onions and a truffled aioli. Who wins for best ordering, an event I take very seriously? The one with the veggie burger! (I could scarcely believe it myself.) And I have been thinking about that veggie burger every since, obsessively scouring the internet for a recipe and having to settle for VQ’s menu description: lentils, hazelnuts and wild mushrooms, with blue cheese on top. I gathered those ingredients (a little nutty, a little savory, a hint of funk), pulled out my food processor and hoped for the best.
And I am going to toot my own horn here: I nailed it. Quadruple flipped and stuck the landing nailed it. They have everything I’d hoped for, with a sink-your-teeth-in texture and holy-moly umami flavor. I think the burgers taste even better when made ahead; let cool after baking, freeze until your next BBQ and rewarm under the broiler, on the stovetop or on the grill. Win!
Best Veggie Burgers (If I Do Say So Myself)
inspired by Portland OR’s Veritable Quandary; makes six burgers
- 1/2 cup dry lentils (I recommend French du Puy style)
- 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 oz shitake mushrooms, or similar
- scant cup toasted hazelnuts
- 4 oz crumbled blue cheese
- 1/2 medium red onion
- 3 fat garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
- caramelized onions (optional, for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the lentils: combine 1/2 cup of dried lentils with 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the mushrooms until coarsely chopped and then transfer to a large bowl. Process the white beans until smooth; transfer to the bowl. Chop the onion into quarters and with the garlic cloves, pulse until minced; transfer to the bowl. Pulse the hazelnuts until coarsely ground and (you guessed it) transfer to the bowl. Pulse the lentils until they break down, about 15 seconds; add to the bowl.
Stir in the olive oil, balsamic, beaten eggs and stir to combine. Sprinkle the salt, savory and flour over top and mix. Form into six patties (it will feel pretty slack, don’t worry) and bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 20 minutes. Flip and bake for 10 minutes more. Serve or let cool, wrap tightly and freeze for later use. Defrost in the fridge overnight and let the burgers come to room temperature before re-warming on a clean, well-oiled grill, under a broiler or on the stovetop until heated through.