Burgers were always a big deal in my house. I grew up with a dad who was a ‘king of the grill’ in his own rights. The man didn’t cook a lot, but the things he did do, he did well. I always knew when it was his turn to make dinner because there was a different atmosphere in the house. It was relaxed, enjoyable and messy. Kind of like my kitchen. I think I learned that from him.
Burgers were one of his specialties (so was garlic bread but we’ll cover that one another time). And everyone who came over for a BBQ always asked for the “Joel Burger”. So growing up, the very little meat that I did eat was pretty much always in the form of a patty. Handmade, hand seasoned and grilled with care. We’re talking real burgers here. Not some pre-formed, frozen-within-an-inch-of-its-life round disc. So I became quite the burger snob. Having recently chosen a plant-based lifestyle, I am now a vegan burger snob.
Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against a good, hot off the grill soy burger. It definitely does the trick at the cottage or family barbeques. But I’ve been craving something more. Something real - with vegetables I can identify – and was made in my kitchen and not a processing plant. So I’ve been embarking on a challenge to make a GREAT vegan burger. The kind that works well on a bun with condiments, or topped with salad, or as an awesome appetizer to dip.
I’ve got a few under my belt, ranging from broccoli to corn to white bean to black bean, but this one takes the cake. Its part burger, part potato latke, and when they first come out of the oven, the smell instantly transports me back to my Bubbie’s kitchen at Chanukah. And its simple perfection reminds me of my Dad.
The base for this burger is sweet potato. One of my all-time favorite vegetables. The combination of warm mashed potato, heady spices and the sweet caramelization from a low-and-slow bake in the oven in this recipe is like a holy trinity of sorts. It just works. Well. (It must, because I’ve made three batches of them in the past week alone!)
You could put these on a bun, top them with some condiments and go to town, but since we’re on a “little to no bread” quest at the moment, I opted for a more middle eastern route: couscous salad and lemon-tahini dressing.
My Dad was a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guy. But I really think even he would have loved this one.
Baked Sweet Potato Burgers with couscous salad and lemon-tahini dressing
2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked in microwave and mashed
1 19oz can of chick peas or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup ground oats (or breadcrumbs)
1/3 cup flour (I used whole wheat but all-purpose works well too)
1 tablespoon ground flax
3 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked if you have it, sweet if you don’t)
¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (if you are using sweet paprika only, otherwise omit this one)
½ teaspoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tomato, seeds removed, diced finely
½ an English cucumber, peel intact, seeded and diced finely
½ an orange pepper, seeded and diced finely
¼ cup each diced green and kalamata olives
Juice of one lemon
pepper to taste
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/3 cup cold water
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
Pinch of salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Cook couscous in vegetable broth according to package directions. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet or large plate and cool completely.
- Mix flax with 2 tablespoons of hot water and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes until mixture is thickened.
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pierce potatoes and place on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 6-7 minutes or until completely tender. Slice open and allow to cool completely (I usually pop mine in the freezer for 15 minutes). Drain chickpeas or beans. In a large bowl, mash them well with a potato masher or fork. Scoop out flesh from cooled sweet potatoes and combine with beans. Add flax mixture, ground oats, flour, paprika, chipotle powder (if using), mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder and cumin. Mix well. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes to allow mixture to set.
- With lightly wet hands, scoop out mixture and roll into tennis ball sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, approx. 3 inches apart (you should be able to get 6 burgers on a tray). Flatten using the palm of your hand until they are a good “burger” thickness between a ¼ - ½ inch thick). Bake for 40 minutes, flipping them once halfway through.
- Combine cooled couscous and diced tomato, cucumber, pepper, and olives in a bowl. Add juice of one lemon and a few turns of fresh pepper. Mix well to combine. Chill until ready to serve.
- In a small food processor or blender, combine tahini, water, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Process for 60 seconds until smooth.