The Book CookHome is Where the Burger is: "Wild" Week TwoEllen Clifford

Black Bean Burgers: go vegan, or put an egg on it!

I loved this book so much. So much that I cooked for it twice. So much that I read it twice. I almost never do that. Last week was food for when you are lost. I wanted something apropos of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the saga of a three month solo trail hike, so granola bars it was. I was thinking about what it means to be lost, and so a trail snack seemed right. This week I want to talk about being found. How do you know that you are “found?”

I associate being found with being at home, and I think there are two different ways to think about being home. There is “home” as in a location, and then there is “home” as in feeling at home in who you are and in what you are doing with your life. Either way, I think home is where YOU make it, not necessarily where you are raised or even where you live. For Cheryl Strayed, the trail was her home for three months. Her physical home carried in her backpack. Is the moral that home is where your heart is? Should we be snails, our homes upon our backs? That would be interesting.

Home is where the heart is, and the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Ergo home=food. Nothing makes you feel more at home than home-y food. Not campfire food, not trail mix, not even a candy bar can do what a hot meal does. The one food Strayed dreamed of eating when she got off the trail, and mentions at least half a dozen times, is a burger. Sometimes a hamburger, sometimes a cheeseburger. I decided to do a burger that pays homage to the beginning and ending of Strayed’s voyage. It started in the southwest so those are the flavors I used: cumin, chili, and cilantro. The trip ended in Oregon so I veganized the burger, making it with black beans. I even made it a “cheez”-burger by coating it in nutritional yeast. “Nooch” is a popular vegan product with a cheesy taste. I also wrapped it in a lettuce bun.

Of course, I also made a variation in which I topped the burger with a poached egg. Nothing says home to me like eggs, but if you disagree you can stick with the vegan version. I topped the egg with some red bell pepper sauce I had on hand. Salsa works well too if you are not up to finding or making a red bell pepper sauce. And of course, those of you who hate cilantro can omit it or substitute parsley. And those of you who hate vegans can take a hike. Just stay off the Pacific Crest Trail.

And now I give you the Black Bean Homeburger. As opposed to hamburger. Yeah I was pretty pleased with that one too.

Homeburgers adapted from The Big Book of Breakfast by Maryana Vollstedt

  • 4 saltines
  • 1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed (I used the Goya brand)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped spring onion
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • small handful chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • a couple of grinds of ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast mixed with 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • lettuce to serve vegans
  • poached eggs and salsa to serve non-vegans, but ovo-vegetarians will dig it!

Pulse the saltines in a food processor. Add beans, onions, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chili powder and salt and blend until blended but still a tiny bit chunky. Divide into three. Shape into burgers, 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Heat a skillet with some butter over medium high heat. Coat burgers in the nutritional yeast/cornmeal mixture and cook until browned and hot. To veganify, wrap in lettuce.

To go Ellen-style top with a poached egg and some red pepper sauce.

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