Diners, Drive Ins & Dives is on Netflix this season and this episode features the Sparrow Tavern in Astoria, New York – a run down rock & roll type bar with gourmet style. One of their star items was the Sparrow Veggie Burger and even the carnivores were going on about it.
There was no actual recipe, but with a few rewinds I sailed blithely into the kitchen. The taste was fantastic! The burgers, not so much – they crumbled into what looked like a hash. I searched online for hints, but it seemed everyone who had posted about this burger had come up with the same initial recipe I had…they just preferred not to mention the flaws. Shove it all in a Pita, get a shot and who cares, huh?
It became apparent that my attempt to go light on the grains, potatoes and Panko (what I deemed the less healthier aspects) in the recipe was a partial cause of my failure. Too much moisture was another. Then there was the cooking time/temperature. A bit of tinkering, a few adjustments in the recipe and cooling the burgers before cooking made a huge difference. These burgers need to be handled with care, but they’re vastly improved.
Frankly, there’s a good bit of work here, but its all worth it, I promise! These burgers really are great. Even child number 2 asked for seconds, then asked if he could make one up later that evening. Then wandered into my room in the a.m. and said, “I was thinking about making up a couple veggie burgers, do you want one?” Yeah, I do! I love it when a veggie burger can bridge the gap between vegetarians and those who follow a Standard American Diet.
The potatoes, mushrooms, barley and brown rice all had to be cooked. I maximized my time by making larger amounts of the rice and barley. What I didn’t use was bagged and tagged and tossed in the freezer (short-term only) for down the road. My pressure cooker helped speed this recipe along, too. You do have a pressure cooker, right?
Had I planned ahead and made and served corn, potatoes, mushrooms and/or the peas earlier in the week for a dinner or two, making enough extra to use in this recipe, things would have really moved along quickly. I also left the skin on the potatoes, carrots and zucchini – healthier & easier!
This recipe makes eight good-sized, six-ounce burgers (depending on how large the zucchini and carrots are) but the burgers, after being baked and cooled, freeze well. Separate them with a bit of parchment or plastic and keep them in a Ziploc, ready to pull out and saute at a moment’s notice. I’ve started doubling the recipe just to have them stashed in the freezer. You’ll need a huge bowl if you do – I had to use my Dutch oven!
At the restaurant, these Veggie Burgers are served with a Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce (it is fantastic!) and frisee lettuce in a Pita Bun. I used my Super Easy Flat Bread with Romaine and red onion – these tend to be a bit *meh* on a hamburger bun. Accompanied at the restaurant by Sweet Potato Fries with rosemary and onion, my Stupid Simple Sweet Potato Fries make a great (and easier) substitute.
Eight burgers ran me about $3.75, not counting buns, Sparrow Tavern’s Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce or extras, leaving plenty in the budget for all kinds of add-ons and sides. Talk about a bargain! Sure beats one burger for about 10 bucks at the restaurant. Better, it costs about half that of the cheapest stamped out, premade hamburgers – and these rock!
Sparrow Veggie Burgers, makes 8 six-ounce burgers
- 2 shredded carrots*
- 1 medium shredded zucchini*
- 1 cup cooked and drained barley (about 1/3 cup raw)*
- 1 cup corn, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
- 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed if frozen and drained by pressing against a strainer.
- 1 1/2 cups (2 medium potatoes, about 10 ounces) mashed with an egg*
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, diced and cooked until quite dark*
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup dry)
- 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon Olive oil, divided. 1 teaspoon for mushrooms, one tablespoon for cooking burgers.
Using hands, heavily mix all ingredients except oil until it forms one cohesive mixture. The mixture should not feel “wet” but rather very thick and heavy, and the mashing should be firm enough to distribute all ingredients through out the mixture, but not so hard as to break open the peas. Refrigerate and leave for at least one hour, overnight is fine.
Measure out six-ounce portions (this works out to about a cup, loosely packed.) Form into a tight ball, really pack it. Place on a well greased baking tray. Gently press and form into uniform patties, rounding edges.
I found it easy to form patties by placing mixture into a one cup measure, pressing down firmly, packing to about 3/4 cup, then tapping the mixture out on the baking tray and then forming.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Do not turn patties. Rotate sheets from top to bottom about halfway through if using more than one baking sheet. Remove from oven, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. Once refrigerated, the patties are easier to remove intact from the pan with the help of a thin spatula.
When ready to serve, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick pan. Add desired amount of patties and cook until golden brown, flipping once. It’s best to cook quickly over a fairly high heat, starting with the side that was on the bottom when baked. Over cook and they can be a bit mushy and crumbly, under cook and they won’t be crispy, so look for a good golden brown color.
- Barley: A medium grain barley is perfect in this recipe, adding a good bite and chew. It’s not critical, however, and anything you have on hand will work. The amount dry varies depending on which type of barley is used.
- Zucchini and carrots should be shredded with a large grate. I found the ideal texture was to push them very hard and quickly through the food processor, forming large shreds. The shredding option on a mandolin would work as well. This helped with excess moisture. If grating by hand on a box grater, drain as much moisture as possible by pressing against a strainer.
- The amount of potato in this recipe is pretty critical. To cook potatoes, cut in quarters, cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain, then mash while dry. Add an egg when slightly cooled and mash thoroughly.
- To cook mushrooms, roughly chop. Add to a saute pan with about a teaspoon of oil. Turn on heat, stirring several times, then place a lid on the pan. Cook for about six to eight minutes until the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture. Remove lid, continue to cook until moisture is gone and mushrooms have turned a deep color, slightly toasted in places.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area isPocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
Maximize your time, here! See hints above on how to speed things along!
- Zucchini: A common garden vegetable, zucchini can be expensive at the store. Watch for specials, look at Aldi. 3 were $1.68 at Aldi, 56 cents a piece.
- Carrots: An inexpensive item even not on sale – but it keeps so well I buy a couple of packages if it is cheaper. $1.00 a pound is standard in our area, but the larger packages of 5 pounds are often on sale for $2.50 – that’s 50 cents a pound, or about 10 cents for two. Carrots will keep longer if you rotate the package, which is so often on the bottom of the drawer, so they don’t sit in condensation.
- Frozen Corn and Peas: Fresh corn is best in the summer, when sales run around 17 to 20 cents an ear, but in the winter frozen is reasonable. Fresh peas are often expensive and hard to find. Buy frozen on sale with a coupon – mine was free, but 30 cents a pound is not unreasonable. Left over corn or peas will be just fine if you have it. Even just on sale, a cup of the basic frozen will run you about 30 cents each, total 60 cents.
- Bell Pepper: There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a fifty to seventy cents a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 40 to 75 cents for the green bell. This is one item I seldom buy at Aldi unless I can’t get a better price at my store. Cost at Aldi 89 cents, half is 45 cents.
- Mushrooms: They are often on sale at my grocery for about 1/2 price, especially around holidays. I pick them up when they run 89 to 99 cents a package. I’ve seen them at Aldi for about the same price. Turns out, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, the simple button mushroom has as many good qualities as it’s more expensive siblings! Go underdog! 98 cents.
- Green Onion: I try to buy on sale for about 50 cents a bunch (usually during Holidays) then put the white tips in a jar of water in a sunny window to regrow. Kids love taking ownership of the project. I only need to replenish every few months. Cost is so minimal that I don’t even count it.
- Russet Potatoes: Potatoes are dirt cheap – look for a great sales price of $1.99 for 10 pounds in the fall and winter; regular sales price is $1.99 for five pounds in my area. Store in a cool dry area, not near your onions – I like to store in a loosely closed paper bag.
- Don’t know what to do with a large bag? Make what recipes you’d like to, then make Freezer Twice Baked Potatoes with the rest. I often pick out the smaller, misshapen potatoes for mashing and save the more regular sized ones for baking or other recipes. Whenever possible, I scrub and keep the skins on, even though they may not be shown that way in a recipe…cost for 2, about 12 cents.
- Eggs: Stock up on eggs when they’re inexpensive, normally during Holiday weeks. Low prices in my area range from free (often with other purchases) to anywhere from $1.89 for 18 eggs. They last for weeks in the fridge – The date on the container is a ‘buy’ date, and you can expect them to last a good six weeks past that date. If you pick up two or three packages when they’re at their low, you’ll rarely need to pay full price.
- Refrigerate right away and never store in the door; eggs keep best in a colder part of the refrigerator, in their own box. (Then put your partially used vegetables in the door where you’ll see them and remember they need to be used ASAP – the half a bell pepper or onion, etc.) In doubt about an egg? If it floats in water, discard, just to be on the safe side. If they float, it means the egg inside is drying out, not that it is bad in any way. Cost for 8 cents.
- Panko Bread Crumbs: I generally just use homemade (which I keep in my freezer) but Panko is a larger, very crisp bread crumb and is quite a bit crisper than, say, Progresso. I do find coupons every now and then for Panko, and it does go on sale, quite often when other Asian items do – stock up on things like Soy, etc. after the US New Years when the Chinese New Year is coming up. On sale, a box of Panko ran $1.99, a cup 50 cents.
- Brown Rice: Really look for coupons and sales – and stock up when both are available. It’s worthwhile to get a good brown rice – don’t be fooled by the instant or quick cooking varieties or the ones that just look like brown rice. Riceland often has coupons available – check their site – I count on about 20 cents a cup. If I don’t have a coupon, I’ll buy a larger bag (cheaper per ounce.) Remember, though, brown rice is only marginally better than white rice – a few trace minerals and a smidge more fiber – but it is fantastic when cooked right. Cost 10 cents.
- Barley: Barley comes in different types and you’ll find it in different areas of the store. It may be near the oats in the cereal aisle – hunt high and low, and may be in the bulk aisle. Generally a small box runs about $2.50 but a little goes a long way. One cup yields about 3 1/2 cups cooked. Cost about 15 cents.
- Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I also look for new brands and stock up – heavy competition means that when a new brand comes to the store, it is often at a fantastic price for a few weeks, then settles in at around the same price as the others. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 8 cents.
Put Your own Spin on it:
- I imagine you could change out some of the vegetables. Sweet Potato may sub in nicely for the potato.
- Although not tried, perhaps the grains could be changed – I could see wild rice or quinoa working well here.
- I did use Panko rather than my home-made bread crumbs. Home-made would cost considerably less and seems a reasonable substitution.
- While wonderful just as they are, these could easily be varied by adding different seasonings or seasoning blends. Cajun, Mexican, Curry, etc.
Cal 214, tot fat 4g, 4%; sat fat 1g; mono 2g; poly 1g; chol 23mg; sod 193mg; pot 580mg; carb 40g; fib 6g; sug 6g; prot 7g; vit A 87%; vit C 55%; calc 3%; iron 8%.
Put Your own Spin on it:
- Although I’ve so far only made these with Panko, another dry toasted bread crumb would likely work in this. Perhaps just a bit less if using a commercial one.
- Another grain other than barley could probably be used, but it should have some moistness to it.
- Vegetables other than those stated would likely work well, just make sure that they’ll “act” the same way in the recipe. Lima beans for peas, for instance. Perhaps other squash for the zucchini.
- The flavor is wonderful just as it – actually rather of a surprise! Still, variations could be made to suit another profile, perhaps curry, adobo seasoning, Cajun, etc.