Summer Burgers, Hold the Meat

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Article written by By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN

I come back to burgers in this column every year or two. My quest for good vegetarian burgers has nothing to do with wanting to create something that resembles a hamburger or turkey burger. Why try to mimic meat? Rather, my vegetarian cooking is about produce, which, it turns out, can be the foundation for a great burger.

One difficulty I’ve experienced with vegetable-based burgers has been getting the right consistency, so that they hold together when you brown them. The solution to this occasional problem came in the form of some incredible patties that the chef Suvir Saran demonstrated this spring at the “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives” conference at the Culinary Institute of America in the Napa Valley. He used farro, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and peanuts in his burgers, and they were flawless.

The secret to their easy-to-work-with consistency was the sweet potatoes. Why hadn’t I ever thought of using mashed potatoes – sweet or otherwise – to hold together a burger? Mr. Suvir shared several of his delectable recipes for potato-based patties with me, and I’ve adapted three of them in this week’s Recipes for Health. They are filled with wonderful spices, packed with vegetables, easy to make, and they can all be frozen, either before or after browning.

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