I flew by the seat of my pants a bit with this dish, but it ended up being a delicious vegetarian dinner. I was inspired by the stuffed chickpea patties I saw over at 101 Cookbooks, a vegetarian and natural foods cooking site. Her thought is that veggie burgers don’t need buns, because the beans provide enough of a bread-y texture. Instead, the burgers themselves should act as buns, and they should be stuffed with interesting ingredients. I agree, and decided to stuff mine with some cotija I had on hand and let it melt in there a little – cotija doesn’t melt much at all, so you could use a slightly meltier cheese, like manchego, if you wanted. These burgers cook on low heat for awhile, though, so you wouldn’t want to use a softer cheese than that. As a topping, I decided on an heirloom tomato and kalamata olive relish with a vinegar-y bite. These were really tasty, especially served with the oven fries I made. A great, healthy vegetarian twist on burgers and fries.
Cotija-stuffed chickpea “burgers” with tomato-olive relish
Inspired by: Veggie burger recipe at 101 Cookbooks
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I prefer Goya)
¼ cup canola mayo
½ medium onion, cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, crushed
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste
6 pieces cotija cheese – the pieces should be sliced so as to resemble thin pats of butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil, for cooking the patties
For the relish:
1 very large heirloom tomato, roughly chopped
8 or so pitted kalamata olives, sliced
Generous drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tsp.)
Splash of red wine vinegar (about ½ tsp.)
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the burgers:
1. Place the chickpeas, egg, mayo, onion, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. Process on medium speed until well-combined but still chunky. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin and pulse to combine. Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the panko crumbs. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes so that the crumbs absorb some liquid. At this point, the mixture should be very moist, but should still form patties without sticking to your hand. Add a little water or mayo if it’s too dry, or some more breadcrumbs if it’s too wet.
2. Grab about 1/6 of the mixture (it should be large meatball-sized), and form into a 1-inch thick patty. Press a piece of cotija cheese gently into the center, and bring the edges of the patty up around the cheese so that it is completely covered. Repeat to form 6 burgers.
3. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a cast iron skillet (a regular skillet would probably work, too, but I like the extra browning that cast iron gives to the burgers). When the oil is hot, add the burgers and cover. Cook, covered, for about 8 minutes per side.
4. Meanwhile, make the relish – combine all in ingredients in a small, non-reactive bowl and toss to combine.
5. To serve, plate patties and spoon some relish over each one. Serve with oven fries and enjoy!