In middle school, I had a brief flirtation with vegetarianism. I would love to tell you I was enlightened to the health benefits of a plant based diet. Or that I was aware of the environmental impact of industrial meat. Or even that I found eating cute, furry animals morally wrong. But no. I became a vegetarian because my best friend was a vegetarian. Good thing she didn’t experiment with illicit substances or get a tattoo.
If there was an award for worst vegetarian, it would have been awarded to yours truly. First of all, I wasn’t actually a vegetarian. At night I would sneak into the kitchen and pick at leftover bits of sesame chicken and spoonfuls of meat sauce. The portion of my diet that was actually vegetarian consisted of white pasta, cheese, pizza, and sweets.
Around that time, veggie burgers had just become available in most grocery chains. They made for an easy and “nutritious” vegetarian main, the perfect solution for a mom trying to satisfy two kids with very different tastes. I loved them! I remember thinking they tasted “just like real burgers!!!”
A few years ago, in a hurry to put dinner on the table, I picked up a box of my old favorites. I was so disappointed to find they were chewy and dry – kinda like a salty hockey puck. After that, I started making veggie burgers from scratch. Sounds complicated, but most recipes take less than 30 minutes. Basic recipes simply mix mashed beans with shredded vegetables, spices, bread crumbs and an egg. The mixture is then formed into patties and sautéed in a little olive oil. Recently, I tried this version, made with eggplant and zucchini, and it may be my favorite yet.
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, grated
- 1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs or fresh whole grain breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- 2 tbsp basil, chopped
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp olive oil
- 4 100% whole grain hamburger buns, toasted
- Your choice of toppings – we used tomato and goat cheese, my favorite
- honey mustard
- olive oil mayonnaise
- Place the eggplant in a large colander over a dish towel or paper towels.
- Sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit 20-30 minutes, then blot dry with a paper towel.
- Meanwhile, place the zucchini in the middle of a few layers of paper towels or a (clean!) kitchen towel.
- Twist it over the sink to squeeze out extra water.
- Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.
- Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.
- Add the eggplant and cook 5-10 minutes.
- Add a little water, about ¼ cup, cover and cook the eggplant until soft, about 5-10 minutes.
- When soft, mash the eggplant with a potato masher until it is broken down.
- Transfer eggplant to a large bowl. Mix in grated zucchini, bread crumbs, wheat germ, basil and egg.
- Form the mixture into 4 balls.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
- You can use the one you cooked the eggplant in, just wipe it out first.
- Add the patties to the pan and press each with the back of a spatula to flatten slightly, so they cook all the way through. Cook about 4-6 minutes per side, until well browned.
- Assemble on the hamburger buns with your favorite toppings.