But Paris is where it’s REALLY happening: Le hamburger is oh-so-chic now, but of course those round fat discs have been given a French spin. Take Blend, for example (photo left, courtesy of woonblog), where there are nothing BUT hamburgers on the menu. They offer burgers with balsamic, blue cheese and emmenthal, for example, and a chicken parmesan burger. Or try La Penderie, where you can get a truly sinful double burger topped with foie gras. Photo below from La Penendrie, of their foie gras burger. A bit de trop, dontcha think?
I’m not a big meat eater, but everyone craves a burger now and then, so when I cook burgers for my caveman of a husband, I make myself a vegetarian one.
When you think of a vegetaria burger, don’t just think of a beef substitute, or of those scary looking patties they sell, ready-made. Think of the pleasure of holding a fat bun in two hands, a bun you’ve stacked with your favorite flavors and toppings. You can make a delicious ‘burger’—and I have—with your choice of shrimp, salmon, clams, black beans, grains, mushrooms, or a number of other things. Even Blend in Paris has a veggie burger on the menu, which is this: mozzarella cheese rounds, breaded and fried, and topped with house-made fresh tomato sauce and basil, then served on a homemade bun, just out of the oven. With this creation, even meat eaters might be jockeying for a bite.
So this summer, when I was grilling burgers for Ron, for myself I tried burgers made with bulgur and beans. You may not know bulgur wheat, but it is similar to quinoa, with a nutty flavor that I like much better, and it’s a cinch to cook (the French use it quite a lot).
To my surprise, these burgers, when sandwiched between some summer tomatoes and avocados and butter lettuce, all piled on a good bun, tasted very much like a genuine hamburger! OK, maybe they lack the carnal satisfaction of biting into real flesh that meat-eaters crave, but they were quite satisfying, for a person like me who absolutely loves meat, but likes live animals better. I made a batch and threw them in the freezer, so I can join in the fun of a burger night anytime. And a plus: if you’re trying to add more whole grains and beans to your diet, this is a very delicious way to do it.
RECIPE: Bulgur and Bean Burgers with Special Sauce
This recipe is adapted from one at Epicurious. An important difference: They cook theirs on the grill, but I think that's too dry. I sautée them in a hot skillet, to give them a good crunchy exterior. PS: I served these the next day, sans pain, topped with a salsa of avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, and lime, plus a dab of creme fraîche. This pleased even the Carnivorous One!
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup canned red beans, drained
- 1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted if you have time
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup parsley leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon each, coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 multi-grain hamburger buns, split and toasted
for the Sauce:
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh herbs
Lettuce, tomato, sliced avocados, mustard, slices of red onion…as desired. Top with a slice of sharp cheddar after you turn them over if you like, to melt while you cook the second side.
Cook 1/4 cup onion in a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan for about 5 minutes (reserve the other 1/4 cup.) Add bulgur and water and cook about 15 minutes, or per package directions; all the water will be absorbed. Set aside to cool a few minutes.
Put the beans, bulgur, pecans, soy sauce, parsley, remaining raw onion, garlic, and spices in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it’s finely chopped. Form into patties the size of the buns you're using and chill them at least a half hour.
Stir sauce ingredients together and set aside.
To cook, heat a cast iron skillet to medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, heat until it shimmers, and cook burgers about 3 minutes on each side or until well browned. Reduce heat if needed, you'll need to watch them closely. Add more oil before turning if pan gets too dry. After turning, top with slices of cheddar, if using, while you cook the second side.
If they fall apart around the edges in the skillet, just press or pat them back together.
To serve, spread buns with sauce and top with burgers and your favorite toppings.
Favorite Reads: France Magazine has a whole new look! Travel, food, language learning, it's all here. Try out their free 14 page sample by clicking here. History lovers, check out Barbara Redmond's 2-part interview with the author of the new book, When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944, at A Woman's Paris.
For your Laugh du Jour: Want to get a little cultural background on the book scandal that's rocking France? It's François Hollande ('The Living Marshmallow') vs. Valerie Trievrweiller ('The Rottweiler'), in this great article by Maureen Dowd, called "Marry First, Then Cheat".