Meatless burgers (6 servings)

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Back on Labor Day, I finally experimented with something I'd been meaning to try out for a long time: turning my meatless meatballs into burgers. The idea seemed plausible; the meatballs were always deliciously juicy, so I figured they would be moist enough as burgers. The meatball seasonings were Italian-influenced, but I reasoned that I could change that up to make the flavor more burger-y. After some Internet research on oven temperatures and cooking times (and an excellent smoke-prevention tip from the Amateur Gourmet ), I was ready to venture into Burger Land. And what a delicious trip it was. 

Basically, what follows is my go-to meatballs recipe with a change to the cheese and herbs. 

You will need:

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • an envelope of onion soup mix
  • 2 cups shredded mild-flavored cheese (I used Colby-Jack, but I imagine Swiss would work well, too)
  • 3/4 cup walnut halves, processed until finely ground
  • 1 c unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 Tbsp of your favorite seasoning mix (I used some Mt. Elbert blend, which is a mix of salt, onion, bell pepper, black pepper, garlic, thyme, and oregano)
  • a good squeeze of tomato paste

Steps:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. I'd suggest using a spoonula to fold/mush the mixture until it's well blended.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and then sprinkle a layer of salt on top of the foil. Place a wire rack (the kind you'd cool cookies on) on top of the salted foil. (This is the genius tip from the Amateur Gourmet; the salt absorbs any dripped grease and keeps the oven from smoking!)
  4. Bring the burger mix out of the fridge. Use your hands to shape the mixture into six patties (each should be about an inch thick), reshaping and resizing them until they're pretty much uniform size.
  5. Place the patties on the wire rack and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake the burgers for 12-16 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. When they're finished, they should be a lovely golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  6. Serve them on buns with your favorite toppings -- lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and smoked Gouda for me!

The nice thing about these burgers is that you don't have to fuss over internal temperature the way you do with beef burgers. Yes, there are eggs in the mixture, but they cook quickly enough that you don't have to worry about them still being raw. 

If you're not sure what type of seasoning mix to use, I'd think Mrs. Dash hamburger blend or Emeril's Bam! Burger seasoning (rolling my eyes at the name) would work nicely. I was a little worried that my burgers would turn out too salty, since my seasoning blend was salted, but we really didn't notice a problem. I used only about a tablespoon of the mix, so maybe if I'd used more, it would have been an issue.

The only thing I'd do differently next time would be to spray Pam on the wire rack before I placed the burgers on it. They stuck to it so much that I had a hard time removing them! You can see from the picture that one edge of the burger dipped down into the salt layer while I was lifting the other end up! It was a little messy to clean up, but the flavor was so good that I didn't mind. These burgers are crispy, juicy, flavorful, and healthy. I'm happy my experiment turned out so well!

Oh, and Amy's vegetarian baked beans make an excellent side dish!