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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Operation Rescue! Plus, Black Bean Burgers.

So Taylor has decided that she wants to be a vegetarian. I think a few too many "predator vs. prey" episodes on the nature channel made her think twice about eating meat. And I can't say I blame her! Keith and I told her that we would support her decision to become an herbivore as long as she's feeding her body the fuel and vitamins it needs to operate properly. Apparently, she'd been simply skipping the meat in her meals and just eating the sides. But what about protein?! Sugary peanut butter just won't cut it in this house!

Hmmm...I've never ventured down the meatless path. I had to think about this one for a while. And in the meantime, we planned a lovely day on the boat with the kids and our dog Penny. Charleston's waterways are a beautiful network of tidal creeks and inlets. We love to hop in the boat for a day of exploring. When the tide is low, the sandbars emerge and some of the saltwater wildlife gets a chance in the sun.

Ahhh...sunshine and a slight sea breeze make for a gorgeous day on the water. Add family, tunes, and some ice cold Corona (Light, of course!) and you have what I consider a nearly perfect day. The tide was going out and we stopped at a nearby sandbar to explore. Taylor, Courtney and Penny hopped out of the boat and ran to play with hermit crabs, dig for clams and play in the sand and surf. That didn't last long, though. It only took a few minutes for the girls to discover some abandoned crab traps -- unlawfully abandoned, I should add. You see, trapping crabs is legal, but allowing the traps to shift to a place where they emerge at low tide is not. Unfortunately, these particular offenders even clipped their distinguishing buoys, leaving traps full of crabs to be buried under the sand and bake in the sun.

Fortunately for these crabs, we had animal activists Taylor and Courtney on the case! And a majority of the crabs were still alive! With the traps clipped and buried in the sand, the crabs must have surely been starving, surviving only when the tide came back in. So we started digging. Even Penny helped! It was hard work, but those girls dug for hours. "Hmmm....we need some water to pour in here to rinse the sand away. Jenny, can we use your beer bottle? Oh wait, we don't know if these crabs are 21!" Oh, precious Courtney.

We managed to save many blue crabs and stone crabs, releasing them into the water for another shot at life. It felt good. And it made me realize that if Taylor was serious about being a vegetarian, then I needed to do what I could to teach her how to do it the right way.

My first attempt? Black Bean Burgers! At first we looked in the frozen food section of the grocery store, comparing and contrasting the veggie burger section. First of all, the sodium content in many brands is as bad as the "bad" processed food. Couple that with preservatives and an exorbitant price tag, and I'm done with that option. So homemade it is! And I must say, I didn't miss the meat in my meal that night at all.

What I found is that with a very basic (and inexpensive!) base recipe, you can adapt your black bean burgers to your taste and mood. For flavor, anything goes! I flavored these with a somewhat traditional "barbecue sauce" made with ketchup, mustard, honey, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder. Yum! If you're in the mood for Asian food, season them with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and Sriracha. That's next on my list, because it sounds amazing. If you're in a hurry, a few tablespoons of bottled salsa will do the trick -- and don't forget the guacamole to top it off! Like I said, anything goes. Play with what you like and let me know what you come up with!

Now, here's the basic recipe:

Black Bean Burgers
Serves 4-6

2 cans black beans (14.5 ounces each), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (using whole wheat earns you bonus points!) 1/2 cup wheat bran
2 eggs

That's it! Roughly mash the beans with the back of a fork or potato masher, incorporate the rest of the ingredients and the flavorings of your choice! Grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through and misting with olive oil or butter spray so they don't dry out or burn.

Serve them with some Svelte Macaroni & Cheese, Unfried Green Tomatoes, Roasted Spinach with Truffle Oil & Sea Salt, or The Svelte Gourmet Signature Salad. Voila! You'll get plenty of protein and fiber from the burgers, but you won't be asking "where's the beef?!"

I'm inspired now. Dozens of crabs lived to see another day. And I'm going to break out of my comfort zone a little bit and try more meatless main dishes. Stay tuned!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!


Allison said...

So I made these last night, and I have to say, they were delicious! I added to your recipe: 1 T - Tahini Sauce, 1 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Garlic Salt, and 1 tsp Chipotle Pepper and served it on a bun with Hummus instead of ketchup, mayo or msutard. It was a definitely a GREAT substitute for beef. Thanks!!!

The Svelte Gourmet said...

Yum, that sounds fantastic! I'll have to try those flavors next. Glad you liked them!

becca b said...

i put this recipe in my memorial day post, along with the unfried tomatoes--can't get enough of your blog!


The Svelte Gourmet said...

Thanks for reading! =)

Dayna said...

Black bean burgers are so great! I'm glad that someone came up with this idea. Our daughters make these for us, and they're fabulous with my homemade whole wheat rolls.

I love your blog, but I haven't read in a while. I'm getting caught up now...

Kathryn said...

I apologize if my comment is added twice. I just got an error message.

Fuel on Cannon Street (across from Hominy Grill) has really good black bean burgers.

I've made my own version in an attempt to imitate theirs for a vegetarian friend of mine.

Instead of bread crumbs you can use wild rice (I love the wild pecan rice) or ground oatmeal. I've also added zucchini, mushrooms, and red and yellow peppers. And like you said, you can spice it up with different sauces. Another twist is putting chopped nuts (Fuel uses peanuts). I like cashews or almonds.

I freeze them individually and they're great for dinner after a long day of class!