Generally speaking, I don't object to the idea of meatless burgers. What I object to are meatless burgers that pretend they aren't meatless.
As in many of the frozen patties found at the grocer. Though there are some fine exceptions, too many of them try too hard to replicate the flavor and texture of meat.
Thing is, if I want the flavor and texture of meat, I'll do something crazy. Like eat meat.
I firmly believe it's possible to make a great meatless burger that is delicious in its own right, not because it attempts a guise of beef. I usually draw my inspiration from the original veggie burger - falafel.
Made from ground chickpeas, these patties traditionally are fried, but also can be cooked in a skillet or baked. And because chickpeas are agreeable to a broad range of flavors, it's easy to play with the seasonings and other ingredients.
For this simple chickpea burger, I used sweet white miso to add tons of salty-sweet-and-savory flavor. And the texture of miso - a paste made from fermented cooked soybeans - also serves as a binder to hold the burgers together. Miso usually is found alongside the other Asian ingredients in the produce section.
I made these burgers as sliders (small burgers). As with most homemade veggie burgers, the larger you make them the more likely they are to fall apart.
Miso Chickpea Sliders
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Makes 8 sliders
8 tablespoons sweet white miso, divided
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil (canola or vegetable oil can be substituted)
8 mini burger buns
Cooking directions: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the miso and the mayonnaise. Set aside. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, remaining 6 tablespoons of miso, cilantro, olive oil, garlic powder, five-spice powder, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Pulse until coarsely chopped, but not pureed.
Form the mixture into 8 patties about 3 inches around and about 1 1/2 inches thick. As you are forming the patties, use your fingers to firmly pack them.
Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. One at a time, set each patty in the bowl and pat breadcrumbs onto all sides of it.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. Add the patties and cook until browned and heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. If the patties start to stick, add another tablespoon of oil when flipping. Serve the burgers on buns topped with miso-mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato.
Nutrition information per slider (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 456 calories; 176 calories from fat (39 percent of total calories); 20 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 9 mg cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrate; 15 grams protein.