All-Star Veggie Burger and Oven-Fried Onion RingsSo many veggie burger recipes … so little time! Every vegetarian experiences the bombardment of well-meaning veggie-burger recipes -- as if life is unfathomable without a reliable burger in your food arsenal. However, every vegetarian must ultimately embrace the following truth: you will never get beefiness from anything other than beef. Your food mission need not be to find a stand-in for a beef burger at the next barbecue. Accept a veggie burger for what it truly is: a tasty, structurally sound patty that looks good on a bun. That being said, vegetarians and carnivores alike can enjoy the flavorful “All-Star Veggie Burger,” from Allrecipes.com, where the ingredients include garbanzo beans, oat bran and oats, brown rice, and tofu.

Oat bran is the outer casing of the oat, that is particularly high in soluble fiber. You can find it in a store that sells a good amount of bulk items, including oats. This recipe asks to also use quick-cooking oats. I was clever enough to use leftover Chinese brown rice for the half cup that I needed to make 4 burgers. Now, what about “Korean barbeque sauce”? I didn’t search too hard for any. A typical ingredient list for such a sauce might be: water, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, soy bean paste, sesame oil, dehydrated garlic, salt, spices, sesame seed, dehydrated onion, modified food starch, ginger extract. Instead, I used Bone Suckin’ Sauce, whose ingredients include: tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoke flavor, natural spices, salt, xanthan gum.

The tofu adds the right amount of moisture to these burgers. Their structure is sound. I cooked my patties for 5 minutes per side. And Dave (a lifelong carnivore) enjoyed these burgers.

Finally, I made the “Oven-Fried Onion Rings,” from the February 2008 installment of Notes from the Test Kitchen, from Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below). I was enticed by the notion of avoiding deep frying and by using a crumb coating made up of saltines and potato chips! These rings showcased a perfect crunch, with a sweet, soft onion inside.

Oven-Fried Onion Rings
Notes from the Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated), February 2008

Makes 24 rings, serving 4 to 6
We had the best results with kettle-cooked potato chips.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
30 Saltine crackers
4 cups kettle-cooked potato chips, crumbled into smaller pieces
2 large yellow onions, cut evenly into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place 1/4 cup flour in shallow baking dish. Beat egg and buttermilk together in medium bowl. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup flour, cayenne, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper into buttermilk mixture. Pulse Saltines and chips together in food processor until finely ground and place in separate shallow baking dish.

Pull apart the rings in each round, discarding any that are less than 2 inches in diameter. Working one at a time, dredge each onion ring in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, then drop into crumb coating, turning ring to coat evenly. Transfer to large plate and repeat with remaining onion rings.

Pour 3 Tbsp. oil onto each of two rimmed baking sheets. Place in oven and heat until just smoking, about 8 minutes. Carefully tilt heated sheets to coat evenly with oil, then arrange onion rings on sheets. Bake, flipping onion rings over and switching and rotating position of baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer onion rings to plates lined with paper towels to drain briefly. Serve immediately.

MAKE AHEAD
Oven-Fried Onion Rings can be breaded in advance and refrigerated for up to an hour. Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking; if baked straight from the fridge, the onions will not soften properly and will remain crunchy.

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I used 2 large Vidalia onions, but these provided too many rings; regular-sized onions would have been fine to use. For the crumbs, I used Barbara’s Bakery Wheatines and Kettle Foods’ Sea Salt & Black Pepper potato chips. A 450-degree oven is a hot one, and I did have a smoky apartment after a while. Some of the onion rings cooked too dark, but the coating, overall, was quite perfect. Everyone should go crazy over these rings. They’ll produce as much joy as a good onion ring should.

RECIPES: enjoy a meatless burger and some baked onion rings -- really!
PREP TIMES: burgers are ready within 30 minutes; onion-ring assembly may take a bit more time
TASTES: the sauce -- Korean or otherwise -- and the spices make a flavorful burger; enjoy the perfect crunch of a sweet onion ring

I’m on a meatless roll, now. Next time, I want to cook the “Almond Loaf,” from the January 2006 issue of Vegetarian Times, along with “Broccoli with Sesame Seeds and Scallions,” from The Diabetes Food and Nutrition Bible, by Hope Warshaw and Nancy Hughes. Come back to my site on Monday, October 12, in order to be dazzled by this meal.