Meatless Mondays: Oktoberfest Veggie Burgers
Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
I spent last Saturday outside, enjoying the incredible October weather at Blue Moon Acres Farm in Pennington, N.J. We were celebrating the season with a real Oktoberfest. I was grilling wursts over hardwood charcoal for about 150 people. We were sipping local beers and listening to a pretty incredible bluegrass band. It was practically paradise. Of course, it wouldn’t have been for the vegetarians in attendance if we hadn’t thought to make a veggie alternative to the sausages.
Blue Moon Acres is famous around these parts for its greens. It was the first in the area to recognize a need for delicate yet flavorful microgreens, and if you mention the farm to chefs, they smile and glaze over thinking about them. But Blue Moon Acres is quickly gaining a reputation for another unexpected crop: rice.
Jim Lyons, the owner of the place, is a real rice fanatic. Ask him about it, and you’ll get a half hour of fun facts about growing it and how his method—he keeps his fields dry as opposed to flooding them—produces grain with far less arsenic. The rice is good stuff. I’ve made risotto with the short-grain Italian varieties and have been downright shocked at how much better it is than the rice I’ve used from Italy. That probably has to do somewhat with the freshness of the product, which is perhaps the best reason to eat local.
I took some of Lyons’ brown rice and used it as the base for veggie burgers. Combined with black beans and a little spice, they were a favorite at the Oktoberfest—not just with the vegetarians but with the meat eaters too.
Brown Rice–and–Black Bean Veggie Burgers
3/4 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 cup chopped white onion
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried, plain bread crumbs
6 large egg whites
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 pound tomatillos, diced or julienned
1 cup chopped or julienned white onion
1/4 cup chopped or julienned jalapeños
1/2 cup cilantro
2 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Make the burgers: Cook the rice in the water with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until tender, about 30 minutes, draining if necessary. Cool.
Cook the onion and garlic in the oil until softened or golden, stir in the tomato paste, paprika, cumin and salt, and cook 1 minute more.
Put onion mixture in food processor with black beans, cooked rice, bread crumbs, and egg whites. Process, leaving some texture. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the cilantro. Season to taste.
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place 4 dollops (1/3 cup) of the burger mixture in the skillet and flatten into patties with an oiled spatula. Cook the burgers until the undersides are browned, about 4 minutes. Then flip the burgers and continue to cook until set and both sides are browned, about 3 minutes more. Repeat in batches with the remaining burger mixture.
Make the slaw: Combine all the ingredients. Serve on burgers.