First, let me apologize to all vegetarians out there because I have never liked veggie burgers. Never. As a kid it was simply because anything labeled vegetarian was immediately known to be yucky – except my carrot sticks slathered in Ranch dressing, of course. As I matured and my pallet became a little bit more adventurous I discovered I liked things such as: avocado, olives (black not green), spinach (cooked into things – not by itself just yet), and mushrooms (on pizza).
Jump ahead to the present and there are very few foods I don’t care for and even fewer I will politely pass on if offered. I love all kinds of olives. Spinach is my best friend, especially since I have chronically low iron. Tofu is regularly substituted for meat if I can’t confirm the meat’s origin; and I’ve added such grown-up foods as: fennel, figs, watercress, and squash of all kinds to my diet. I even enjoy a few roasted Brussels sprouts every now and then (le gasp!). The only items I will dare to refuse are peppers, raw tomatoes, and veggie burgers. I’m getting better with the tomatoes and peppers. Thick, beefy tomatoes without the slime are fine and green peppers I can even enjoy in moderation…veggie burgers, though, I won’t touch.
So it was a lucky thing that the recipe I read about a month back said nothing about a “veggie burger”. The dish was called “Almond & Chickpea Burger With Chipotle Mayo”. Well, you might say, a chickpea burger is obviously a veggie burger – that’s what most veggie burgers are made of after all! Yes, but you see, that would require a bit of logic and at the time I guess all my brain cells were devoted to mastering stereochemistry in chiral molecules; I completely missed the association and decided I liked the recipe. I had already collected the ingredients for a baba ghanoush I had wanted to make that evening and when I realized I had everything on hand to whip up the “almond chickpea burgers” as well, that sealed the deal.
Almond Chickpea Burgers with Baba Ghanoush
(Adapted from Women’s Health and Andrea Meyers)
For the Baba Ghanoush…
1 medium eggplant (about 12 oz. / 375 g)
¼ C fresh lemon juice
2 T tahini paste*
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1½ t salt
2 T and 1 t EVOO, separated
*Note: the source recipe calls for 1/3 C of tahini paste. As much as I like the flavor, I found the original amount overwhelming in the final product. I reduced the amount to 2 T in my next batch and thought it was a significant improvement. Different brands of tahini paste may have stronger or weaker flavors. This was my first time ever cooking with the stuff myself, so it was a learning experience. I recommend adding only a few tablespoons to start and, after tasting, adding more if desired.
For the Almond Chickpea Burgers…
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
½ C slivered almonds (2 oz.)
1 19 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ C chopped fresh thyme or herbs of choice
1 t ground cumin
½ t chili powder
generous pinch of salt
1 large egg
4 t EVOO
2 T mayonnaise
½ t minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, or to taste
2 C baby greens or shredded lettuce
1 beefsteak tomato, coarsely chopped*
4 whole-wheat pitas (6″)
*Note: now while I generally pass on tomatoes, I honestly did want one here – especially a lovely beefsteak one – if for no other reason then to add a pop of color. The tomato I pulled out of my veggie drawer had gone unused for a tad too long, I’m ashamed to say, and I had to toss it, otherwise you would have seen tomato in my photo! As long as you don’t a terrible aversion to the fruit, I suggest you add it in. It will give the burgers a juicy cool flavor amongst the crunch and heat of the burgers themselves.
For the Baba Ghanoush…
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour 2 T of EVOO into a 9 x 9 glass baking dish. Pierce the skin of the eggplant with a fork in a few places around the surface and cut in half lengthwise. Place the eggplant halves skin-side-up in the baking dish, the green tops of the eggplant may need to be removed. Roast the eggplant for about 30 minutes or so, until the insides of the eggplant have turned soft – but not mushy – and slightly opaque. The skin will be a bit wrinkled.
- Allow the eggplant to sit until cool enough to handle, then skin the warm eggplant. If the veggie is fully roasted the skin should peel off relatively easily. The tricky part is getting a good grip. Coarsely chop the eggplant flesh and drain for a few minutes in a colander if needed (mine was never all that wet).
- Add eggplant to a food processor and puree it. Add lemon juice and tahini paste and pulse a few times to incorporate. Add freshly-minced garlic and salt. Pulse to fully mix and taste: add more lemon juice or salt if desired.
- Add EVOO and process until well mixed. Serve with pita strips, crackers, or on Almond Chickpea Burgers. Will keep in the fridge for 3 days.
For the Almond Chickpea Burgers…
- In a small pan of boiling water cook garlic for 3 minutes or so to soften. When cool enough to handle, peel and transfer to a large bowl. Mash garlic with a fork until relatively smooth.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast almonds for 3 – 5 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to (cleaned) food processor and pulse a few times to grind into a fine meal (be careful not to make paste!).
- Add chickpeas to garlic and continue to mash with a potato masher or fork until no whole chickpeas remain. Add almond meal, herbs, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Stir/mash to blend.
- Add the egg and mix well. Shape the mixture into 4 patties. In a large nonstick skillet heat EVOO over medium heat and add the patties. Cook until browned and crisp on the outside and heated through (about 5 min per side). Take care to only flip burgers once, more flipping could crumble the mixture.
- As the burgers are cooking, blend mayonnaise and chipotle pepper in a small bowl. When burgers are done, spread a rounded teaspoon of chipotle mayo on each and place in pitas.
- Mound a generous tablespoon of Baba Ghanoush on the top of the burgers in the pitas and finish with greens and tomato chunks. Serve immediately. Will keep for 3 days in fridge.
Please excuse the horrible lighting in the above photo, I snapped it later that night when I came back for seconds and decided to try the baba ghanoush on top of the burger. The result was delicious: the perfect blend of both recipes. Unfortunately the fluorescent light above my stove creates terrible photos… back to the flavors though: while not originally paired together, the histories of both the lowly veggie burger and exotic baba ghanoush can explain their complementary nature.
My recipes came from entirely different sources and are normally enjoyed in very different circles (vegetarian soccer-mom’s griddle vs. Egyptian restaurant), but both have Arabian roots. Baba ghanoush is a popular Arab dish that takes a fire-roasted eggplant and purees it with tahini and spices (technically, because we oven-roast our eggplant here, it doesn’t have the smokey flavor and would be considered a mutabbal and NOT a baba ghanoush…but I won’t tell if you won’t). Balls of chickpeas mixed with herbs and spices are traditionally made as falafels – another food quickly becoming popular in the West. The Copts of Egypt claim to have made the first falafel as a meat substitute for Lent.
So there you go! These Almond Chickpea Burgers with Baba Ghanoush take traditional Egyptian foods and rework them into a Western meal. These were the very first veggie burgers I can say I’ve enjoyed! They are packed with different textures and flavors, a big bonus is that they’re healthy too. I served one to my mother the following day and she loved it. Don’t let any unfamiliar ingredients stop you, give them a shot – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥