The NY Times recently crowned the city's best veggie burger, and I won't argue with their choice: Hillstone's is mighty tasty. However, I can't stomach the seventeen dollar price tag or the soulless nationwide-chain atmosphere of the place. (Their costly name change here, from Houston's, to allegedly circumvent New York City's calorie-labeling law for restaurants with over fifteen locations really rubs me the wrong way.)
With a few tweaks to this recipe, I was easily able to recreate the Houston's/Hillstone veggie burger in the comfort of my own home.A few tablespoons of canned beets (and beet juice) is the secret, crucial ingredient.
I like soy, so I substituted out half of the brown rice for faux ground "beef" (Morningstar Grillers Recipe Crumbles) instead.After my first batch, I also took to leaving out the cumin, which combined with black beans lends too much southwestern flavor to the burgers.
A blend of barbeque sauce and mollasses is incorporated into the mixture and brushed on top of each patty while grilling.
Homemade veggie burgers won't hold together the way manufactured frozen patties do, but adding a good amount of plain bread crumbs (at least a half a cup, if not more, instead of the measly tablespoon of oat bran the recipe calls for) helps hold them together. Forming the patties and letting them chill in the fridge atop waxed paper doesn't hurt, either. I don't recommend putting them on a traditional grill - a stovetop pan works much better.When I first became a vegetarian over fourteen years ago, I was lucky if a restaurant had a sad portobello mushroom on the menu for me. We've come a long way since. I'm pleased at how many people are embracing the concept of eating meat sparingly, if not eliminating it altogether, and it's thanks in part to the delicious, creative (albeit sometimes unjustifiably expensive) vegetarian entrees on menus.