Early in my cooking journey, in an overconfident state (and after reading the ingredient label on the veggie burgers in my freezer), I decided I wanted to make my own veggie burgers. I flipped through a copy of Food and Wine only to come across a familiar face, my Top Chef hero, Richard Blais sharing a recipe for a Veggie Burger with Pomegranate Ketchup.
"Fate!" I thought and off to Whole Foods I went, recipe in hand.
I came home ready to get started but my enthusiasm waned as I read the recipe and quickly realized I had embarked on a major endeavor. Not one to give up or waste money, I turned on some music and got to work. I toasted the almonds, steamed the edamame, cooked the lentils and couscous, food-processed the mushrooms, and attempted to fry my paste-like patties.
After several hours, I found myself surrounded by every pot, pan, and gadget imaginable, standing in a kitchen that looked like I'd made Thanksgiving dinner without any of the food. In the end I hungrily tossed the not-so-tasty burgers in the trash and swore I'd never make another veggie burger again.
Since then, I've successfully made many veggie burgers and I still idolize Richard Blais. Although I'm not really sure what went wrong that day, I have learned a few things about choosing the right recipe.
Here are a few tips:
- Read carefully and beware of recipes within a recipe. In the case of the veggie burger, I would've seen that I needed to toast almonds, cook lentils, steam edamame, and cook couscous ahead of time. None of these steps are difficult on their own, but all stacked together add a lot more pots, pans, and time to the meal.
- Beware of ingredients that you'll only use once (or find other recipes that use these ingredients as well). In this case I was left with dried porcini mushrooms, curry powder, and pomegranate molasses. It's no fun to waste a bunch of money on specialty ingredients that you'll never use again.
- Honor your skill level. If you're new to the kitchen, look for recipes with only a few ingredients, only a few steps, and limited cooking techniques - you'll work your way up to Top Chef. At this point in my cooking journey, I'd never fried anything so that alone would've been challenging enough without all the other steps.
- Read the reviews (if you're reading a recipe online). Often times the reviews give you a more realistic picture of how difficult a recipe will be. Readers also offer tips and substitutions based on their own experiences that can help you avoid the same mistakes.
- Find recipe collections you like and go back for more. I follow several blogs and publications and appreciate the simplicity of their healthy recipes. For example, 100 Days of Real Food, Cookie and Kate, Twos Peas and Their Pod, and Martha Stewart Recipes.
With all these tips in mind, don't be afraid to fail either. Sometimes a veggie-burger-disaster is just what you need to learn a few things and make a better choice the next time around.
Cheers to you,
P.S. Richard Blais, if you're reading this, you're my hero and it was definitely my fault. Email me, we'll do dinner.