Summer was made for Bar-B-Q’s! Even those of us who don’t eat meat still love the idea of outdoor cooking, far from the heat of a kitchen stove, the UV rays tickling our skin as we inhale sun-soaked breezes. Firing up the barbie is one of the simplest ways to prepare a meal, and it’s perfect for grilled veggies, grilled pineapple or romaine, burgers, marinated tofu, or any number of other dishes you can think of that would benefit from the smoky, seared, grill-mark effects of cooking over a live flame. And what goes better with those steaming dishes than something chilled until ice-cold?
I decided it was time to create a classic burger. This one is adapted from one in a cookbook I discovered during my year at nutrition school.
One of the things I loved about studying to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist–as much as, if not more than, the food–was the sense of camaraderie, being surrounded by like-minded people every day. Although Toronto is well known as a foodie city, in the suburb where I live, I know precious few folks who follow my kind of diet, and certainly very few of my friends did so back at that time (I’m happy to report that several of them have come to see the “real food-based” light since then).
Every morning at our 11:45 break for lunch, my friends would all congregate in a coterie huddled at the long classroom tables as we each pulled out our food containers like magician David Copperfield withdrawing the chosen playing card out of his jacket pocket. We’d peer into the little boxes, oohing and aahing over each other’s treasures: “Cool, what’s that green stuff? I’ve never seen that before!”; “How did you prepare that arame?”; “Is that organic salmon?”; “You mean you MADE that quinoa bread? Awesome!”–and so on, before we all sat together and ate at the communal table. The enthusiastic squeals would infuse the room as we examined each other’s meals.
One of my favorite teachers in those days was a raw foodist whom we all admired for her knowledge, equanimity, luminous skin, toned physique and, of course, phenomenally successful nutrition, yoga and holistic healing practice. Whenever Caroline lectured, we all listened with rapt attention, a bunch of wide-eyed toddlers at a first reading of Goodnight, Moon. Caroline’s cooking classes were always fully booked, and we vied for those coveted spots.
Along with the classes, each student received a copy of her cookbook. It’s still one of my favorite sources for healthy, easy-to-make recipes that I know will taste great (especially since I’ve already sampled many of them in those cooking classes!). I’ve probably made over half the recipes in the book, but had never tried the Eggplant Burgers (the original version was called “Patties,” but I preferred the more robust “burger”).
These are the perfect recipe for grilling season. Baked first to solidify their shape and later grilled, they hold together beautifully and provide a meaty, sturdy texture and appearance. The flavor is rich, savory and slightly smoky, with a toothsome bite. I served mine simply on a slice of quinoa sourdough, but of course you could go for a classic presentation in a hamburger bun, too. I think they’re a terrific addition to any BBQ menu!
“Mum, we’d love to share in the BBQ, too! We may not be very good at grilling but we’ll help you eat it. . . and we sure are experts at chillin’ out!”
Adapted from Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont
These are an incredibly simple burger to mix together, yet they deliver a complex, multi-faceted flavor in a burger that’s incredibly satisfying, even to meat eaters.
I medium eggplant, whole
Heaping 2/3 cup (90 g) walnuts
2 slices whole grain bread (I used sourdough buckwheat), torn into pieces
2 large stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup (180 ml) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cook)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) Herbamare or other all-purpose seasoning of choice
3/4 tsp (7.5 ml) dried sage
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Bragg’s Seasoning or wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
Fine sea salt, if necessary, to taste
Preheat oven to 400F (200 C). Place the eggplant on a cookie sheet and poke 2-3 times with a sharp knife. Bake until the eggplant is soft all the way through, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool. Decrease oven to 350F (180C).
In the bowl of a food processor, grind then nuts until they are coarse crumbs. Add the bread and celery and process until finely ground. Add rolled oats and pulse a few times to combine.
Cut the eggplant in half, then scoop the flesh from the skin and add to the processor (discard skin), along with Herbamare, sage, Bragg’s and salt to taste. Allow to sit, uncovered, for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, scoop out mounds of the mixture and shape into patties (I flattened mine to about 3/4 inch or 2 cm thick) and place on cookie sheet. For browner patties, spray lightly with olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, flipping the patties about halfway through, until browned on the outside and still soft on the inside. For grilling, cool and refrigerate, covered, overnight before reheating on the BBQ or grill. Makes 9-12 patties. May be frozen.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 and beyond (with gluten-free bread), sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, nut free, vegan.
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Johanna GGG says
Love your burgers – I can imagine eggplant in a burger would be great. As would be a class that came with a free cookbook! I regret to say that there is not much chillin’ going on down under – unless you count chilled fingers and toes on a cold morning. Burgers are something I love so will see if I can come up with something for this event
Thanks, Johanna! Yes, the class was great, too–though I’m not sure the cookbook was exactly “free” (the price was built into the class price). 😉 Sorry about the chilled fingers/toes–you could make these in the oven and warm up the kitchen that way!
These look great but I didn’t see exactly how much eggplant to use? Is there a measurement or size that you suggest?
Oh, my, eggplant burgers without the eggplant! So sorry about that. I used one medium-sized eggplant. I think there’s a bit of leeway on that score, but when I make them again, I’ll measure the pulp that I get so I can add a volume measurement as well. Thanks for pointing out the omission!
Andrea S says
Oh, excellent! I have some eggplant to use up from my food club box. Can’t wait to try these tomorrow night!! Sweet pic of your baby chillin’.
Thanks, Andrea! Hope you enjoy them. They’re good straight from the oven, but even better when grilled the next day. 😉 (And Elsie says, “arf”).
I have an eggplant, and I have paleo bread, but I do not eat oats. Any idea on a substitute for the oats that is grain free? Maybe flax? Thank you.
If you use quinoa (technically not a grain), you could probably sub that for the oats. But they do serve partly as binder here. . . so I think they’d likely not hold together quite as well with the quinoa, unfortunately. 🙁
The Healthy Apple says
Simply amazing Rick!! Love this recipe and so happy to be sharing this post with you; thank you for your amazing friendship. Love you and miss you!
Thanks, Amie! I loved your potato-pasta salad, too. 😀 Hope you are having a wonderful time at the beach!! xo
Yummm I love eggplant, never would have thought to use them in a burger. Genius!!
I’ve always found that eggplant has a kind of “meaty’ flavor. . . it works really well in a burger! 🙂
Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy.wordpress.com says
Hi Ricki! wow your burgers look outstanding! i shared some Grilled Summer Veggies with Hasselback Red Potatoes. They’re Gluten Free, Vegan, and BOdy Ecology Diet friendly!
Thanks, Caralyn! They looks great (well, ALL your recipes look great!). 😀
The burgers look Awesome! Eggplant in burger, found it very innovative and interesting. Have to try out. Thanks a lot for sharing.
Thanks so much, Minnie! We really enjoyed them (even my meat-loving hubby!) 🙂
Betsy DiJulio says
What a wonderful twist on a veggie burger: eggplant burgers! I hope to join your Linky party with my Big Fat Greek Burgers or Big Easy Burgers (the Big Burgers of Summer!), but I don’t have a photo of either. Guess I need to get cookin’ and shootin’! Thank you for the inspiration.
Thanks so much, Betsy! I hope you get a chance to link up!
Yummers! A new way to enjoy eggplant – definitely pinned!
Thanks, Alisa! It was a new way for me, too. 🙂
Laurel Alanna McBrine says
What a great idea! I am going to put that cookbook on my list to buy. Where on earth would I find “sourdough buckwheat bread”? Did you make it?
On a happy note, my recent bone density scan showed no change over the last two years so my alkaline diet, green juices and green smoothies plus exercise seems to be working! How are you doing in that area? I really appreciated your story about reversing your osteopenia diagnosis. I haven’t reversed, but I think holding steady is pretty good since my losses were in the double digits in the previous 5 years. Yay nutrition!
Thanks so much, Laurel! And congrats on holding steady!! I will have my regular annual checkup (plus bone density test) in a couple of months. . . will report back! And yes, do get the book if you have a chance. Her recipes are great! 🙂 Oh, and the sourdough buckwheat bread is Little Stream brand. . . it’s available at pretty much all of he health food stores where I live, and in the natural foods departments at Loblaws.
Shirley @ gluten free easily says
Hi Ricki and Amie!–Jumping in to share my non-taboo tabouli, the one made with quinoa. I make this as a side dish for cookout events and it’s popular with all. 🙂
Mr. GFE is the big eggplant fan in our house. Wonder if I can sell him on these burgers? They sure look and sound terrific!
Last, just LOVE the chillin’ shot … one of the best ever that you’ve shared!
Shirley, I hope you can convince him–they are SO good! And thanks so much for joining in the “Chillin and Grillin” fun! 😀
Alex Caspero MA,RD (@delishknowledge) says
These look excellent! I am always on the lookout for new vegan recipes and eggplant sounds wonderful! Thanks for the recipe! Alex
Thanks so much, Alex! And thanks for stopping by! 🙂
Becky Striepe says
Oh, I love this! When we grill eggplants, I usually just do big slices. This burger really ups that game – I have to make them!
Ricki Heller says
Yes, you really do! It adds a lovely umami element. 🙂
Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day says
I don’t think I’ve ever had an eggplant burger before. What a great idea!
Ricki Heller says
Glad you like it, Amy! It was really “meaty” and quite delish. 🙂
These burgers look so tasty, Ricki! So perfect for summer grilling.
Ricki Heller says
Thanks, Dianne! So glad you like them! 🙂