Thanksgiving went great this year, food and conversation both. I handled vegan dishes and my sister-in-law the flesh ones as well as the green bean casserole. One success was my bean loaf, judging by how many took seconds on it.
A pot-luck omnivore and herbivore dinner needs a protein-emphasis entree from the latter. Having never settled on a bloodless loaf recipe, I “Googled” from scratch, but no recipes on the web appealed.
A phrase from one though called a loaf a glorified veggie burger. Hmm.
Well, I do have a favorite burger. It’s one of Mark Bittman’s. I found it online in mid-2017, from Grub Street, “How to Make Mark Bittman’s Simple, Satisfying Veggie Burgers.” The print-out is full of my notes. It’s easy to make, tastes better than store-bought — maybe one exception — and if prepared well the texture is great, including how it doesn’t crumble into a pile of confused pilaf.
A sidebar in the seven-burger section of Bittman’s encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food explained how to convert any into a veggie loaf. Eureka!
His book’s first recipe by the way is the one found online, “The Simplest Bean Burgers.” I barely changed enough of the recipe to call it an adaptation. Here ’tis, though, amounts for 4-6 burgers. Loaf adaptation follows.
Weeknight Vegan Burgers, a la Bittman
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
- 1 14-ounce can of plain beans, any variety (see Notes), drain and reserve liquid but do NOT rinse beans
- 1 medium to large onion, peeled and cut coarsely
- 1 Tablespoon egg replacer, dry (either prepared product or chia seed or ground flaxseed) (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon mild chili powder or comparable spice blend
- 1/4 teaspoon salt to start
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper to start
Using a food processor (hand-mix instructions in Notes below), grind half of the dry oatmeal in 4-6 pulses, about 15 seconds total, to a coarse flour consistency. Add to the processor the beans, 1/4 cup bean liquid, onion, optional egg replacer, chili powder, and the salt and pepper. Pulse several times, scraping the sides down in between, until ingredients combine and some of the beans are pureed. This total takes about a minute of processing. Too little time and the burgers won’t hold together, while too long and they’ll be hockey pucks. Better to go too short, not overdo.
Put the burger mixture into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the dry oatmeal. Taste a tiny spoonful. Maybe add a little more salt or pepper. If the mixture is too dry for patties to hold together, stir in more bean liquid just a tablespoon at a time. If too wet, then mix in a pinch of oats at a time.
Refrigerate from a half hour to overnight; the longer the chilled rest then the less likely they’ll fall apart. With wet hands, form four to six burgers, placing them on a plate or on parchment paper.
Heat a large skillet on medium or a hair over medium. Add a little oil or cooking spray unless nonstick (and the coating in good shape). Gently place burgers in pan and cook without turning 6 minutes. Carefully turn and cook the other side about 4 minutes. Serve.
A Neat Loaf
Double all ingredients except the spice blend, which should be 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. One large to jumbo onion instead of two mediums is fine. Prepare and rest as above (or mash manually according to the Notes below). The mixture can be made a day or two in advance of baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard loaf pan, or line it with parchment paper as a sling. Place the doubled mixture into the pan. Optionally, spread about 1/4 cup catsup over the top as a homey glaze. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes then remove foil and bake another 20 minutes.
If using parchment sling, remove to a serving plate and slowly slide the paper out. Cut into medium to thick slices gently with a table knife to avoid scratching the platter or pan. Serves 8 to 12. Both loaf and burgers freeze well.
Grinding half the rolled oats, dry, helps them absorb the liquid. Leaving half whole is for texture and appearance.
Black, red/kidney and brown/pinto beans are recommended. Green or brown lentils are traditional for veggie loaves. White/cannellini beans turn pasty mush too quickly, while chickpeas stay firm and angular, but sometimes those might be textures you want. For a loaf, combining two types is attractive.
Beans cooked from scratch work well, using the cooking liquid as indicated.
The spice or herb blend can vary, say a North African/Middle Eastern za’atar. If curry powder (and choosing chickpeas), a tablespoon could be too much.
What size is a medium onion? Put it this way, if you have several from which to choose, for this recipe use the bigger onion.
The egg replacer can give body to the mix. Reconstituting before adding is not needed. Most recipes don’t use it, but I’ve found if I’m unsure if my mixture is too wet or dry that egg replacer evens it up.
A food processor is not necessary. The ingredients can be combined with a fork or potato masher in a medium mixing bowl. Finely dice the onions by knife before adding. So the oats can absorb the liquid, rest the burger or loaf mix, refrigerated, at least four hours.