One of the earliest recipes I wrote for the blog was called Squash and Sweet Potato Pancakes and was essentially a chickpea burger made with mashed-up sweet potatoes and squash. Soon after, I wrote about the joys of eating a just-made lunch in my apartment, and these black bean burgers, inspired by those at a now-closed Nolita cafe, became one of the most sought-after vegetarian recipes on our site.
In the intervening two years, I’ve made cod cakes and pork burgers (and cheeseburgers, naturally). There were these yummy little mashed potato croquettes that found their way into the book. Phoebe made nutty quinoa cakes and crab cakes.
My apologies for the cake/croquette “link soup” above. I’m just trying to work through the reason why there hasn’t been another proper bean burger on the site since November 2009. I honestly don’t know why it is. I for one make them often: they’re a spiced-up pantry staple, and they’re cheap. Though they require some work, mainly opening up cans and chopping some vegetables, it can be distributed throughout the day, which actually helps the burgers, giving them time to firm up in the fridge before frying.
It only seems right that BGSK’s return to the bean burger should come via Lukas Volger, master of the veggie burger. These crisp burgers were inspired by his recipe (via Lunch at Sixpoint), and this version, with eggplant and pesto, is one of my favorites. All they really need is a dollop of ketchup or a handful of arugula, though it’s also fun to dress them up with Tuscan flavors–eggplant, pesto, tomato–as I do here.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
White Bean Burgers with Pesto, Tomato, and Roasted Eggplant Spread
Adapted from “Tuscan White Bean Burgers” in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way
about 1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One 14-ounce can white beans, drained
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs*
1 tablespoon freshly ground Parmesan
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon thyme, broken up with your fingers
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons masa harina (just use flour if you don’t have masa on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
1 ripe tomato (use sundried or cherry tomatoes if you can’t find a good roma or heirloom)
about 1/2 cup Roasted Eggplant Spread (recipe follows)
3 slices whole grain bread
NOTE: If you use gluten-free bread, then these burgers will be gluten free as well.
In a small pan, place 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Caramelize the onions by placing them on a heavy-bottomed, wide pan with olive oil and cooking over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine half the beans, half the onion, the egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, lemon, thyme, scallion, and masa harina in a food processor. Season with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula, until blended. In a small bowl, mash the rest of the beans with a fork or potato masher (you shouldn’t see any whole beans, but you don’t want to make a puree either) and combine with the rest of the mixture and the remaining caramelized onions.
Wet your hands slightly and form the mixture into 3 patties. If you have time, you can refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Heat an oven-safe, heavy-bottomed pan–cast iron is great!–over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil, enough to generously film the bottom of the pan. Place the patties in oil and cook over medium heat until just browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Carefully flip and brown the opposite side. Transfer to the oven and cook another 10-15 minutes, until very golden on both sides, and firm through.
Toast 3 pieces of whole grain bread and top each with a generous scoop of eggplant spread. Add a slice of tomato, if using, and a big spoonful of pesto. Top with the bean burgers and serve.
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Makes about 2 cups
1 large eggplant
1 clove garlic, minced with 1 teaspoon salt, plus more salt as needed
juice of half a lemon
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Bake eggplant at 375°F for 30-40 minutes, until wrinkly, brown, and soft. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and place in bowl. Add garlic and mash, using two spoons, until the eggplant is sort of pulled–you don’t want to pulverize it. Add lemon juice and mix, then add olive oil by the tablespoon, tasting as you go. You want the dip to be rich but not oily. Add more salt as needed. This can be made ahead of time or served immediately. It’s best at room