I’ve made my fair share of stops at In N Out, The Little Owl, and Father’s Office all in the name of a burger. But, sometimes I just can’t handle. And that’s been the case lately. Perhaps I’m in need of some healthy eating after my trip to Texas, my indulgence in Hawaii, and the last round of recipe testing for my cookbook.
No matter the cause, as a means to get back in balance, I’ve decided to go meatless for the rest of the month. I kicked it off on 4th of July when I took the risk of doing a meatless cookout. Happily, no one asked, “where’s the beef?” The star of the meal were these Chickpea Sliders with Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup, so I thought I’d share.
I developed these recipes for a kids cooking class where I taught healthy takes on favorite summertime dishes. While I’ve eaten many a veggie burger and a few falafel burgers, I didn’t want this to be either of those flavors. I was in search of something with the heft of a burger, that held up to a variety of condiments, yet was a healthy, vegetarian take on the traditional meat burger. So here it is. You can top it with anything from sprouts and avocados to cucumber and feta but don’t deny yourself the Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup. It’s an alternative to ketchup with more veggies and more flavors and it’s a hit with everyone who’s tried it.
Makes: 20 (1/8 cup) sliders or 6 (1/2 cup) burgers
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup shredded carrots (from 3 carrots)
4 garlic cloves, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cooked chickpeas (or 1 (16 ounce) can, rinsed)
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 whole large eggs, lightly beaten
20 mini burger buns, toasted (or 6 burger buns)
Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup (optional — recipe below)
Toppings such as avocado, sprouts, Dijon mustard, cucumber, tomato, Feta cheese
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion, season with kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, garlic, and thyme and cook until fragrant and just softened, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and transfer to food processor fitted with a blade. Add soy sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, and process, 2 to 3 (1-second) pulses. Add chickpeas and process, about 2 to 3 (1-second) pulses until broken up but still chunky. Add Panko and eggs and process, about 2 to 3 (1-second) pulses just to incorporate.*To test if the mix is at the right consistency, grab a small amount of it with clean hands and squeeze. If it is coarse in texture but holds together, you’re good to go. Otherwise, pulse the mixture a few more times, or, if you want a finer texture, add 1 more egg and/or just pulse the mixture even more.
Divide into 1/8-cup portions and, with damp, clean hands, shape into patties about 1 1/2-inches wide by 1/2-inch thick. (Alternatively, shape into 1/2-cup patties about 3-inches wide and 1/2- inch thick.) (The patties can be formed up to 1 day ahead and stored refrigerated until ready to cook.)
To cook, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add 3 large (or 6 slider) patties and cook, undisturbed, until crisp and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook on second side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve on a bun with Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup and any of the desired toppings.
Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup
Makes 1/2 cup (enough for 4 to 5 burgers)
2 roasted, peeled, and seeded red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, Sherry vinegar, or lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth (it should be the consistency of tomato sauce). (If you don’t have a small food processor, you can just finely chop the pepper, mince the garlic, and mix it all together by hand.) Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside at least 15 minutes to let flavor develop (can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored refrigerated until ready to cook).
Heat ketchup in a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat and cook until bubbly and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, taste and add more sugar if it is sour or more vinegar if it is sweet.