Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Starting a Conversation on Wholesome Foods - Oh, and Veggie Burgers

Eating wholesomely and sustainably often comes with a more expensive receipt. To eat organic, local, Fair Trade, and other trigger words regarding food are, unfortunately, left to those with the privilege of an education and a salary you can actually support yourself on. Not everyone can afford to buy highly quality and ethically sound products in every aspect of their lives, which is a shame... because that should be the option each and every time.

I’ll admit that being gluten free can be expensive. The various non-wheat or gluten free flours can put a dent in your paycheck; and then there is a concern as to the carbon footprint of those flours’ transportation to your doorstep. What went into growing, milling, and packaging them? Was someone not paid a wage that can be lived on? Has it further broadened the gap of the have’s and the have-not’s?

Living in Malta is inexpensive in comparison to other places in the developed world, and the majority of my monthly budget goes to food. It opened my eyes to what it means to live locally as well as the implications of what it means to import goods from far away. The other reality is that sometimes local practices are, in fact, not sustainable, depending on what is grown and how. And sometimes, you have to make a decision: is something made locally but unsustainable and environmentally questionable better or worse than to buy something from far away that is by comparison?

The other issue I’ve picked up on healthy living blogs, including my own, is the use of ingredients that people may not be able to find, afford, or even know what they are (this point isn't so bad, only that once you know what they are, you may have to figure out shipping costs). I’ve used nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, teff, gluten-free beer, and more without really understanding how I could potentially ostracize and isolate readers because of what I put into my recipes. On the plus side, aiming for wholesome nirvana has educated me in the ways of what is out there, the culture behind the meals, and my desire to share what I’ve found allows me to connect with others all over the world. (I’ve even started a YouTube Channel for that reason.) That includes ingredients I’ve discovered on my travels. That includes recipes that enhanced my experiences while traveling.

As I’ve progressively focused my flexitarianism on whole foods, I’ve begun to really honor making my own recipes for things that is typically bought, such as gluten-free breads, fermented drinks (mead and kombucha), and desserts. Another food that I’ve wanted to get into making are veggie burgers that are both gluten and soy free in a world where what is offered is one or the other, but rarely both. And yes, quite expensive. My goal is to empower people to focus on local and sustainable foods (whole grains and legumes, for example, as well as seasonal foods) that can be cheaply bought and to show you that you can make your favorite foods with them (if you are able to put the time and effort and willingness to experiment). 

This recipe is the start of a hopefully expanding veggie burger list of recipes. I made another veggie burger my first year blogging, and like that one I wish to emphasize that I am not trying to replicate the taste and texture of a meat burger. I would also recommend making small-ish patties by breaking down the mixture into eight pieces. I made them larger (four patties), and while they held together just fine, they were a bit soft and hard to flip because of their size. 

Lemon-Pepper Chickpea Burgers

200 g Dried chickpeas, soaked eight hours to overnight with filtered water and 1 – 2 tsp. baking soda*
1 Green onion, finely diced
1 Green bell pepper, finely diced
1 Garlic clove, finely diced
15 ml Lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 tsp. Sea salt
15 g Flaxseed meal**
15 g Quinoa flour**

Prepare the chickpeas by draining the soaking water and rinsing them from the left over baking soda on the skins.
Add more filtered water into the pot, a pressure cooker if possible, and cook on medium-high heat until the beans are soft (pressure cooker-wise, it will take about 30 minutes).
Drain the water again, and pour the beans back into the pot.
Using a stirring utensil, begin to mash the beans enough that they start breaking down but not enough to turn it into a paste.
Add in the remaining ingredients with the chickpeas, and allow the mixture to sit for fifteen minutes.
Split the mixture into eight equal parts***, and roll them into balls.
On medium-high heat, heat up a sauté pan.
When hot enough, drizzle the bottom with olive oil.
Flatten the balls into patties, and at one or two at a time, cook the patties until brown on the outside and cooked all the way through.
Serve warm with your choice of sides and toppings, either as a burger or on top of a salad or anywhere else you would use a burger for.

Makes 8 patties, or 4 – 8 servings.

* Of the various types of the chickpea species, I used the smaller chickpea species that is extremely creamy and a thinner skin. It is a great chickpea for hummus. The baking soda isn’t mandatory: it breaks down certain aspects of the legume to make it softer when cooked.

** If you cannot come by flaxseed meal or quinoa flour, use what flours you have on hand with the same weight measurement. I happened to have both on hand, and wanted to use grain-free flours.

*** I used olive oil to coat my hands in a way to keep the patties from sticking.