Review written & photographed by Niki Shewfelt
When I first picked up Lukas Volger’s Veggie Burgers Every Which Way (published by The Experiment, $12.68 USD), I was not sure I could really enjoy a cookbook featuring only burgers. I mean, how many burgers can a person eat anyhow? I was wooed by the colorful cover, and the photos inside quickly inspired me to add veggie burgers to my weekly menus, as well as nudge me into making my own burger buns, from scratch. This book will definitely be the only burger book your family will need – even for those carnivores looking for a new palate-pleasing experience. I promise, you will not miss the meat in these recipes.
Whole-Wheat Burger Buns
Rating: 5 out of 5 (definite keeper!)
THE TEST: Why am I daunted by the idea of baking bread? I am quite certain that my reluctance is not due to any sort of lack of ability considering both my mother and grandmother were spectacular bakers, and so by sheer genetics, I am infused with ability. No, my problem is simply a lack of time which masks the real issue – laziness. Knowing this about myself I fell madly in love with this recipe where brilliant Lukas Volger gave me the option of using my standing mixer to knead the dough. Ta-da, I am a baker!
The first batch I made disappeared entirely as if they had not even existed, in fact, all I had left to prove my efforts was a deliciously warm, yeasty smelling kitchen. I am thankful I snapped a quick photo before I released the tasters – teenagers devoured them, and husband equally so, but not before giving me a look as if seeing me for the first time as a gorgeous, pioneer-strong woman.
I could not believe how easy the recipe was to follow, with relatively little hands-on work. Is all bread this simple? If so, what have I been waiting for?! The addition of molasses to the yeast mixture created an almost rugged flavor without overpowering it or making me feel like the holidays had arrived early. The intention was to add a burger patty to these buns, but I suppose I will have to make them again soon. Like tomorrow.
THE RESULTS: Consistent, repeatable, delicious smelling kitchen, warranted the ahhhh’s of teenagers and impressive looks from husbands.
Sweet Potato Burgers with Lentils and Kale
Rating: 5 out of 5 (go ahead & serve this up to company!)
THE TEST: In my pantry I have a glass jar of lentils but whether or not they are French, I couldn’t say as they did not reply to my best “bonjour”. For the culinary gurus out there, you will immediately see the photo and cringe when you see that I used a mixture of lentils. Hopefully some were French.
I gotta say this recipe wasn’t winning any extra points with me after making me use three pots simultaneously, followed by an agitated crescendo of assembly-targeted activity in the last three minutes of prep. However, even if your preferred style of cooking is methodically moving about a constantly tidy kitchen, this burger recipe is definitely worth any discomfort you may experience with the mess.
Sautéing onion, oil and spices wooed the teenagers from their rooms, while aromatic sweet potato and kale steaming above bubbling “French” lentils, made my heart happy with their gorgeous colour combinations.
The various steps and stages of this burger were very easy to follow – even for someone like myself who rarely reads details ahead of time. I am more of a, shall we say, skimmer of details until I absolutely must know what to do. I was not disappointed or shocked by the ease of use in this burger.
The moment of truth was close at hand, and I began to be overly enthusiastic when I saw the burger taking shape and actually keeping its shape, for which I credit the sweet potato. Teenagers who had been previously wooed into the kitchen now fled in minor embarrassment as I squealed with delight. And so it was, with my pots soaking in the sink, I could pan sear the burger earlier in the day; pop them in the fridge; and wow husband at the last minute with an amazingly fragrant homemade burger baking in the oven and no dirty dishes in sight.
THE RESULT: Prior to this recipe, I could not express enough my esthetic dissatisfaction when it comes to the veggie-burger, so far as to say, I would have never served them to non-vegetarian guests. But no more, my kitchen friends, create, relax and serve because this is a definite keeper!
Barley Salad with Beets & Goat Cheese
Rating: 4 out of 5 (can beets be considered the only “veggie” in a salad?)
THE TEST: To me, salad need not consist solely of leafy greens, peppers and carrots. For instance my mother’s favorite salad was a base of whip cream and fresh pineapple. I struggled, however, envisioning a pulse and one lonely root vegetable comprising salad, however two buzz words that immediately captured my attention were “roasted” and “goat cheese”. I had to try it.
Anytime I roast a vegetable I know the result will be fantastic, and when I see a “do ahead” section – I am instantly a fan. With the beets roasted and hazelnuts toasted, I left both ingredients in the fridge and began part two of this recipe when teenagers didn’t need my time.
The entire assembly of the salad was so simple, and the flavor meld between the sherry vinegar’s acidity, the smooth texture of goat cheese, and the natural sweetness of roasted beets meant the family devoured the salad. This is where the 5 becomes a 4 in my review as we could have had it as a main course, whereas labeling it “salad” made it seem delicate and light. Defeated, husband and teenagers asked to have some salad with it.
THE RESULTS: I would absolutely make this recipe again, but I would ignore the salad title and treat it like it deserves; as a main paired with a light green salad.