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The Hand Off: The Relay Veggie Burger Delight!

2010 August 19

by Sarah A. Maine

Veggie Burger Ingredients

One of the most enjoyable things for me about RecipeRelay so far has been hearing from readers – some friends, some strangers – about their own adventures in cooking, especially about their efforts to eat more local and organic fare.  A recent facebook correspondence with my friend Basi yielded her veggie burger recipe – A favorite of Basi and her husband that even receives a thumbs up from their two young daughters!  When I saw Brianna’s Asian Slaw recipe it reminded me a lot of Basi’s burgers – mostly because of the use of peanut butter.  Other elements of the two recipes also correlated well so I decided to try my hand at veggie burgers.

Preparing Veggie Burger Ingredients

In my fridge I had some zucchini, parsnips, parsley, red onion, and – in it’s last appearance (maybe) for a little while …. cabbage.  I promise that I will not use cabbage next week, but for this recipe it just seemed right.  Also I can’t stress enough how satisfying it was to be looking at empty space in the fridge where these items had been resting!  Every few weeks there is a noticeable shift in the contents of my CSA box as new veggies come into season – cabbage and zucchini had been the regulars for a while but are now giving way to potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.  My recipes will also reflect this shift as I make the best use of what is available in and around NYC.  I buy eggs about once a week from the Knoll Krest Farm stand at the Sunnyside Greenmarket.

Last week Brianna talked about issues surrounding sugar and soy sauce; the spice rack is another segment of food preparation that is tough to navigate when trying to be as local and organic as possible.  It may be hard to imagine now, but for centuries spices were at the epicenter of global trade and conflict.  They are still very important and continue to be shipped all over the world, mostly from India.  Unless you are using fresh herbs from your market or garden you will probably be buying spices that are grown and packaged far from home.  I can’t do without spices so when shopping I try as much as possible to buy organic brands in recyclable packaging (available at health food stores and organic markets as well as some regular supermarkets).

Veggie Burger in the Pan

Veggie Burger Delight

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 burgers


  • 2 zucchini, grated and salted (1 teaspoon salt), makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 2 parsnips, grated (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 buns
  • cheddar cheese
  • onion relish

Cooking Directions

  1. Grate the zucchini and place in a strainer, sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt, mixing thoroughly. Place the strainer over another bowl and leave it to drain. Once it has been allowed to drain, press as much liquid out as possible. This step will remove most of the water from the zucchini, keeping it from getting mushy during cooking.
  2. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. Saute in 2 Tbsp of olive oil until the onion is clear and starting to brown.
  3. Grate the parsnips and chop the cabbage into thin strips. Add these and the zucchini to the onions and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the spices, the peanut butter and the parsley leaves.
  5. Let the mixture cool before adding 1 egg (beaten) and the bread crumbs, mix thoroughly.
  6. At this point you can go ahead and form the patties, or if you want the mixture to be a little more firm you can put it in the fridge for 40 minutes to an hour. When you are making the patties, try to handle them as little as possible – the heat from your hand will make them soft.
  7. To form patties I used a spoon to make a ball which I then lightly pressed between my hands.
  8. Cook the patties in a lightly oiled pan, 5 minutes each side.
  9. Serve on a bun with your favorite burger condiments and sides! I used slices of Organic Valley’s sharp cheddar cheese and a sweet onion relish from Carpenter’s Farm Stand in Matunuck RI that I received as a gift (thank you Anne!) when visiting my family.

RecipeRelay Veggie Burger

One of the big challenges when making veggie burgers is texture.  Vegetables lack the protein that allows ground meat to hold together once cooked.  There are various ingredients that can act as binders and bring firmness to your patties, the egg and breadcrumbs serve that purpose in this recipe.  Other binders are flour, beans, and potatoes.  In How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Mark Bittman includes a useful “Basics of Veggie Burgers” section (pg 657-659) along with several veggie burger recipes (pg 660-668).  In my survey of the cookbooks that I own I found veggie burger recipes in The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (bulghur burgers, pg 144), and in Mollie Katzen’s New Moosewood Cookbook (lentil walnut burgers, pg 147).  I will be continuing to explore the veggie burger realm and all its variations.  Along the way I would love to hear about your favorite veggie burger recipes and your tips for making them as tasty as possible!  Be sure to check in with RecipeRelay again tomorrow for Kat’s new Garden Fresh Cocktail, see you then!


  • Aisha Prigann

    Hi Sarah and Brianna,

    I love the site – it is really well-written, fun and has definitely inspired greater creativity in my kitchen. I particularly love all the inventive vegetarian recipes.

    The question of spices and buying locally made me think back to Brianna’s quinoa recipe – and the difficulty of finding locally grown quinoa. Overall, I try to shop locally grown and produced as much as possible – vegetables and fruit always, as well as honey, cheese, milk, eggs, rice and other basics – and organic whenever I can (something that is getting easier in Spain). However, I also believe in a certain amount of flexibility. For example, I buy organic quinoa from Bolivia. While visiting Bolivia, I discovered a wonderful local collective that produces organic quinoa (as well as an inspiring women’s collective that makes beautiful, handcrafted wool items). In a country as poor as Bolivia, the livelihood of the people comprising these collectives depends on the export of their products. Given the quality of the products, and the fact that the collectives are self-managed, locally-based entities that adhere to fair trade practices, I’m okay with purchasing these items even if it means that my quinoa has traveled many miles to end up in my kitchen. Although I’m usually very conscientious about the ecological impact of my consumer habits, I think that in a case like this the support shown to these collectives creates a balance between two things that I consider important – environmental awareness and supporting individuals in their efforts to create independent businesses that sustain them and their communities.

    Thank you for creating this great site!


    • sarahamaine

      Hi Aisha! Thank you for your kind words and support about the site – I’m glad you are getting some use out of it too. Your point about the organic collectives in Bolivia is well taken and, I believe, right on target. In the case of spices, which like quinoa must be produced elsewhere due to climate etc, I buy organic in order to participate in strengthening demand for organics – which I hope will lead to even more organically produced spices and a more robust organic spice industry overall. I have not visited any spice collectives in India although I would like to! In some countries (like Kenya – which supplies a lot of organic vegetables for the European market), organic food production is becoming central to their economies, something I believe should be encouraged by consumers. It is, as you said, important to maintain a level of flexibility when ticking items off the shopping list. There is certainly great value in supporting outstanding and inspiring projects all over the globe – it comes down to doing a little research to find out exactly what you are buying.

      Finally I wanted to mention one of the issues that is beginning to surface now in organic farming – labor standards. Organic standards (at least how they have been written in the US so far) don’t address how workers are treated and/or compensated. There is a movement within the organic farming community to try to change this so that organic food, that is produced using methods that are better for the environment, does not come at the cost of the people who work the land. Check out the film “What’s Organic About Organic” for more info on this.

      Keep the comments coming!

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