Last year, before we went to Portland, I got some great food suggestions from a friend. We followed up on a lot of them – notably Voodoo Doughnut and Beast – but didn’t make it to The Farm Cafe. In my pre-visit research, however, I noticed that the cafe had received much praise for its veggie burger. Unlike any other veggie burger I’ve seen, this one is made almost entirely of eggplant. That seemed brilliant to me – eggplant is known for its meatiness, and is one of my favorite vegetables. I almost never cook with eggplant out of season, though, so I filed the recipe away in my brain and then forgot about it.
Until last night, when I had a beautiful Nixon eggplant and wanted to do something different from my fallback eggplant-and-tomato-sauce summer supper. The Farm Cafe is kind enough to have posted the recipe on their website; I checked it out and was delighted to see I had all the ingredients. Well, almost: I didn’t have any medium cheddar, but I decided a mix of very sharp white cheddar and mild provolone would work fine.
Once fried in a little oil, these eggplant burgers are absolutely gorgeous, with a crisp, near-black crust and melting, tender insides. We devoured them served simply on a slice of farm bread with a topping of Sriracha mayonnaise (jarred mayo mixed with homemade Sriracha, which recipe I will post soon). The Farm Cafe recommends serving them hamburger-style, on buns with mustard, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and lettuce. I look forward to trying them that way very soon. They would also be awesome Italian-style, on a pool of tomato sauce.
The recipe is really quite simple, but you do need to set aside some time for it. The first cooking step, though easy, is uncertain in its timing – different eggplants cook at different rates. There’s also a chilling step that is necessary for the burger mix to stick together properly. (Well, I assume it’s necessary, but then I didn’t try not doing it. If you feel brave and try that, let me know how it goes.)
The Farm Cafe’s Eggplant Burgers
Serves: 4 Time: 75 minutes Hands-on: 40 minutes
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 cup medium cheddar, shredded
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I just tore up some bread)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the eggplant in a large skillet in 3 tablespoons of oil* for 10 to 15 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. You want the eggplant to be very soft, so you can squish it with a fork.
Combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the eggplant. Stir together with a fork, pressing so the eggplant squooshes into the other ingredients. (Yes, “squoosh” is totally a technical term.) Continue until the mixture starts to stick together, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat while you form the eggplant mixture into four burgers. When the oil is very hot, slide the burgers in carefully. Cook until they are very dark brown and crispy, about 5 minutes on each side. If the beautiful crust sticks a little – mine did, because I foolishly used an old skillet that sticks badly – just scrape it up and put it back on the patty.
Serve hot, with whatever condiments you wish.
*I added these three tablespoons of oil. The original recipe seems to use a dry skillet.
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