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Fragile veggie patties can be big on flavor

Sauteed mushrooms and bell peppers make a “meaty” and flavorful burger.
Sauteed mushrooms and bell peppers make a “meaty” and flavorful burger.

These veggie burgers draw their flavor from vegetables, and that’s the way it should be.

The most foolproof here are the grilled portabello mushrooms, so it’s no wonder Robin Donovan serves them up in “Campfire Cuisine.” They’re sturdy and so easy to prepare. Spray the caps with olive oil, shake on a little salt and pepper, and grill. They’re ready in about 15 minutes.

The rest of the recipes will require stovetop cooking, because the delicate patties won’t fare well on the grill. Flip them carefully, or they’re liable to fall apart.

While fragile in structure, they’re big on flavor and plenty accommodating when it comes to swapping ingredients.

Make them with any vegetable or beans on hand that can be mashed: black, white or red beans, chickpeas, lentils or potatoes. Swap the vegetables: beets for carrots, or try parsnips, sweet potatoes. Change up the binders: Use quick-cook oats, bread crumbs, unseasoned cornmeal stuffing. Add some texture: Cooked brown rice, red rice and quinoa are perfect standbys. Alter the spices by using a prepackaged blend or adding in cumin or coriander. Above all, enjoy.

Vegan Burgers

From “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health … for Good,” by Mark Bittman (Clarkson Potter, $26).

2 cups cooked or canned black, white or red beans, chickpeas, or lentils, drained, liquid reserved

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1/2 cup rolled oats

4 carrots, peeled and grated (1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1 tablespoon chili powder or other spice mix

1 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

8 slices whole wheat toast or buns

4 lettuce leaves, tomato, half red onion, 4 tablespoons mustard

Combine beans, onion, garlic, oats, carrots, parsley, chili powder, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until combined but not puréed. If the mixture does not hold together, add reserved bean liquid a tablespoon at a time until it does. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes before shaping burgers.

Shape into patties 1 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Film the bottom of a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet with the oil and turn the heat to medium. Cook patties in the hot skillet, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Serve on buns with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mustard.

Yield: 4 servings

Grilled Portabello Burgers

From “Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors,” by Robin Donovan (Quirk Books, $15.95).

4 large portabello mushrooms, stems trimmed

Olive oil spray

Salt and pepper

4 hamburger buns, toasted

1/2 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers

Spray the mushrooms all over with olive oil or cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill over medium-high heat for 7 to 8 minutes per side, until tender. Serve on toasted buns, topped with roasted peppers and any other desired garnishes.


• Grill cup side down for 10 minutes, then turn. Fill the cavities with slivers of Comté or Gruyere cheese and a heaping tablespoon crème fraîche and grill for 10 more minutes – From “The Picnic Cookbook,” by Annie Bell (Kyle Books, $19.95):

• Make a marinade with ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 3 garlic cloves. Place the marinade ingredients and 4 mushroom caps in a zipper-top bag for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours before grilling. — From “100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without,” by Cheryl and Bill Jamison (The Harvard Common Press, $16.95).

Yield: 4 servings

Mushroom Burgers

Adapted from “The Epicurious Cookbook,” by Tanya Steel and the editors of (Clarkson Potter, $27.99).

2/3 cup water

1/3 cup cooked red or brown rice or quinoa

1 pound portabello mushrooms, stems discarded

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

3 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1/4 cup olive oil

Break one-third of mushrooms into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, then transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining two batches.

Cook onion and bell pepper in the butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms, the garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until any liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in the rice, parsley, soy sauce and ½ cup bread crumbs. Cool 10 minutes. Stir in egg. Form patties and chill 1 hour.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties until deep golden brown, turning over once, about 4 minutes total or until cooked through.

Yield: 4 servings

Veggie Burgers with Melting Cheese

This recipe is from “Vegetable Please: The More Vegetables, Less Meat Cookbook,” by Carolyn Humphries (DK, $25). Slightly undercooked puy lentils replaced the aduki beans. A teaspoon each dried basil and dried parsley were used in place of the 1 teaspoon mixed herbs. Finely chopped onion added texture. A batch made with 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds was good, but increasing the sunflower seeds to 3 tablespoons in the second batch produced a tastier patty.

1 (14-ounce) can aduki beans, drained

2 carrots, grated

1 small onion, grated

1 ounce mixed nuts

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

1 tablespoon mushroom ketchup or Worcestershire sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small egg, beaten

Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

4 burger buns

4 slices Swiss cheese

Tomato and lettuce for garnish

Mash beans with potato masher or fork. Add carrots, onions, nuts, bread crumbs, mixed herbs, mushroom ketchup and some salt and pepper. Combine thoroughly. Mix with just enough of the beaten egg to bind the mixture together.

Shape into 4 burgers, place on parchment-paper-lined plate, and chill for 30 minutes. Heat enough oil to cover the base of a large nonstick frying pan. Fry burgers over a moderate heat for 6 to 7 minutes on each side until golden.

Yield: 4 servings