Unlikely, though it may be, one of the best veggie burgers I have had in a long time came from a joint famous for its generous use of bacon and other meats. I am referring to Skillet Café in Seattle, which I previously blogged about to share the delights of their now-famous (and Costco featured) Bacon Jam—cured bacon mixed with caramelized onions and reduced balsamic vinegar. Although Bacon Jam was originally made popular by Skillet’s mobile kitchen in an Airstream trailer, the new Skillet Cafe scored impressive points with this farro-based “burger,” infused with slabs of porcini mushrooms and lounging on a brioche bun worthy of brioche calories. Equally impressive was the grilled cheese sandwich. Basic, true-to-form, it was slabs of cheddar and gouda oozing out from between giant slices of perfectly toasted bread. Comfort food done right is truly a comfort and Skillet does not disappoint. Even the cobb salad was terrific with a perfectly soft-cooked egg on top of meaty hand-cut bacon slices. Sure there is eventually lettuce at the bottom, but who am I kidding? Presenting the egg in this way allowed the yolk to coat the other salad components, elevating them—similar to the way a true Carbonara sauce allows the richness of egg yolk to carry an otherwise simple dish. I washed it all down with a “Peach-Basil Fresca.” This delightfully refreshing concoction consists of pureed fresh peach, orange juice, lime juice, fresh chopped basil, and soda water. It is served over ice. As I rounded the back corner of the restaurant I happened upon the chef vigorously mixing up this drink in a 20-gallon bucket. He confessed to adding a bit of sugar to the mix, but used a deft hand because it was neither too sweet nor too watery.
As a tip of my hat to this luscious meal, I am sharing the recipe below for “Meatless Garden Burgers.” It has been adapted from the original recipe in my book: Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy, by Tres Prier Hatch.
Meatless Garden Burgers with Porcini
Makes about 36 4-inch patties
Have you ever thought, “I bet I could make that”?
This recipe came from reading the ingredients of a very tasty commercial grain and vegetable burger and deciding to make my own version. According to the judging panel at my house, the homemade burgers win! Believe it or not, these vegetarian babies taste better to my kids than burgers made from ground beef. They freeze well and can be plunked into the frying pan direct from the freezer.
5 cups cooked brown rice
2-ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-pound fresh white mushrooms, finely chopped
4-ounces sliced porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water until reconstituted
1-ounce cheddar cheese, shredded
1-ounce Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup barley, cooked al dente, cooled
½ cup bulger wheat, soaked in 1-cup boiling water (optional), drained
½ medium onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons green or red bell pepper, finely minced
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in ½ cup boiling water, drained
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric (for color)
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a fork
olive oil for frying
Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Using large paper towels, squeeze as much moisture as possible from diced mushrooms, onion, bulgar wheat, bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes. Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Porcini mushrooms will be the only large chunks in the mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Using a wide spoon, scoop ½-cup handfuls of mixture into your hands. Form into balls approximately the size of an egg. Compress slightly. Flatten into 4–inch patties of uniform ¼-inch thickness. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet until all the patties are formed.
Bake sheets of burgers for 20 minutes, until cheese starts to ooze and patties start to brown. Cool completely on parchment. Bag patties and store in freezer until ready to use. They keep frozen for up to one month.
Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan. Fry patties in batches, leaving space between them so patties will brown. When golden crisp on one side, flip garden burgers onto the other side. Serve patties on toast or buns with mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce and tomato.
Tres Hatch is the author of Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy.