Sunday, October 16, 2005

Radagast & SO's okara burgers

Making soy milk entails cooking ground soybeans in boiling water, and then filtering out the solids (see my illustrated guide to making non-dairy milks at home for more). The ground soybeans filtered out of the final product are called okara, and can be used in a number of recipes, including okara burgers. Okara is high in protein and fiber, and makes for a very healthful meal when combined with vegetables.

Okara burgers are vegetarian burger patties that are relatively easy to make at home (assuming you have okara). Okara burgers should be viewed as their own food; they're not intended to replicate either the taste or texture of ground meat.

The patties, which are filled with fried vegetables, are soft and chewy inside and slightly crispy on the outside; they're also completely customizable: you can vary both the spices and vegetables to suit your own tastes. We enjoy eating the burgers on toasted bread with onions and either ketchup or mayonnaise. We only just started making these okara burgers, but made a giant batch last weekend (when made ahead of time they're great for a quick lunch), so they're this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

This recipe is vegan if the eggs are left out, which appears to be how some recipes for okara burgers are written.

Main ingredients:
2 carrots
1 leek (optional; use 2 onions if you don't use a leek)
1 medium turnip
1 medium onion
1 medium red potato
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed with a garlic press
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (more if you want to fry the patties)
Okara from 2 batches soy-barley milk (approximately 24 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce (we use low-salt soy sauce)
1/3 c flour
2 eggs
Enough cornmeal to coat the surface of the patties (~1 cup)

Spice mixture:
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon chipotle
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon cloves

0. If you plan to bake the patties, preheat the oven to 375F sometime before step 10b.
1. Wash, peel, and trim the vegetables (carrots, leek, turnip, onion, and potato).
2. Finely chop the vegetables; we use our food processor for this (we cut each vegetable into approximately quarters and then add them all to the food processor at the same time).
3. Mix all the spices together in a cup or small bowl.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large (preferably non-stick) pot over medium-high heat and add the chopped vegetables (carrots, leek, turnip, onion, and potato) and garlic. Fry, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and starting to turn golden brown in spots, roughly 10 minutes.
5. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for another 30 seconds.
6. Add the okara and soy sauce and cook another five minutes, stirring frequently. The primary purpose of this cooking is to remove water from the okara; when finished, the texture should be similar to cookie dough.
7. Transfer the cooked okara and vegetables into a large bowl and let cool until easy to handle (it'll probably take at least 20 minutes).
8. Once the okara has cooled, stir in the flour and eggs.
9. Shape the okara mixture into patties, coating the surfaces with cornmeal. The mixture doesn't hold together extremely well, so you won't be able to make the patties very large. We make approximately burger-sized patties that are about 4 inches in diameter and about 3/4" thick. We've also made patties about 3/8" thick, which results in slightly firmer patties since there's more crust per unit volume. To shape each patty, we form it into approximately its final size, and then put it into a bowl of cornmeal and coat the surfaces while flattening the patty a bit more.
10. You can either fry or bake the patties:
10a. To fry the patties, heat some vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the patties and fry on both sides until the surface turns golden brown (a few minutes on each side).
10b. To bake the patties, put them on a nonstick baking sheet (we use a silicone pan liner; you could probably just lightly oil the baking sheet if you don't have a nonstick liner), and bake the patties at 375F for 40 minutes. Flip the patties halfway through to ensure even baking.

Note: We prefer baking to frying, as the baking is much easier (especially in bulk). Frying does result in a crisper crust, but once they've been stored in the fridge, fried patties are nearly indistinguishable from baked.

We've made these burgers primarily with okara from soy-barley milk, but have also substituted okara from nut milks for some of the soy-barley okara. If you used all nut okara, the burgers might be less cohesive (but we've never tried).

As mentioned in the introduction, this recipe is extremely flexible: use whatever vegetables and spices you have on hand and that sound good to you.

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