When it comes to sweet potatoes, American cuisine needs some imagination, and these irresistible burgers are here to help. Just throw a cooked sweet potato into your trusty food processor, along with chickpeas, scallions, and spices, and buzz it into orange tastiness.
Two complementary iterations of quinoa (whole cooked grains and flour) step in to balance the sweetness—and also to hold the burgers together—while upping the protein and calcium content. Green pea polka dots round it out in every way, making this taste and color fest even more fun and interesting.
Sweet Potato-Chickpea-Quinoa Burgers
Makes 10 or 11 burgers | Vegan
1/3 cup quinoa
1 medium orange sweet potato (3/4 pound)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and thoroughly drained
1 heaping tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
3 scallions (whites plus light greens), cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted
2–3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
6 tablespoons quinoa flour (see note)
1 cup green peas (steamed fresh or defrosted frozen)
1 cup unsalted peanuts, lightly toasted (optional)
Crushed red pepper
About 2 tablespoons grapeseed or high-oleic safflower oil for frying
Nonstick cooking spray
1. Combine the quinoa and 1/2 cup water in a very small saucepan with a lid. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer, with a heat diffuser, if you have one, underneath. You’ll have cooked quinoa in about 20 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, cut the sweet potato into rounds about 1 1/2 inches thick and steam over or cook in boiling water until fork-soft, about 15 minutes. Cool until comfortable to handle. Strip off and discard the peels and transfer to a food processor.
3. Add the chickpeas, ginger, garlic, scallions, 3/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the sweet potato and process until reasonably blended. It doesn’t need to be completely smooth.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then sprinkle in the cooked quinoa and the quinoa flour. Stir until all the quinoa disappears into the mixture. Gently fold in the green peas and peanuts, if using. Taste to see if it needs more salt or lemon juice and add a few big pinches of crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
5. Place a medium skillet over medium heat for about a minute, then add a scant 1/2 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the pan. Heat for a little longer until the oil is hot enough to instantly sizzle a dot of the sweet potato mixture. Turn the heat to low.
6. Use a nonstick-sprayed 1/3-cup measure to scoop-shape the batter as uniformly as possible. Carefully transfer as many burgers as will fit in a single layer to the hot, oiled pan, knocking the cup handle assertively against the side of the pan or using the back of a spoon to release the batter. Smooth the top surface with a dinner knife, so the burgers will crisp evenly, and push in the sides to help them keep their shape as they cook.
7. Cook over the low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. (Longer cooking is OK—not just hotter. The sugar content of sweet potatoes causes them to burn easily at higher temperatures.) Use a small spatula with a thin blade to carefully loosen each burger and flip it over, adding more oil as needed and pushing the burgers back into shape if they slump or break.
8. Cook on the second side for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely browned. Continue to cook in batches until all the batter has been used. Serve hot or warm.
Be sure to use the moist, orange variety of sweet potato (not the drier, starchier white type).
Regarding the quinoa flour: Don’t panic. Just get out the inexpensive electric coffee grinder that you dedicated to spice grinding, wipe it out thoroughly, and add 6 tablespoons of whole quinoa. Buzz for less than 5 seconds, and you’ve got your ingredient—probably slightly more than the amount you’ll need for the recipe.
If you’re using fresh peas, they’ll need to be steamed or blanched for about 5 minutes. Frozen ones require only to be defrosted in a strainer—a brief encounter with room-temperature tap water, then a shake to dry. Either of these steps can be done ahead.
Begin cooking the sweet potato well ahead of time, so it can cool before you assemble the batter. This is also a good use for leftover plain mashed sweet potatoes. You’ll need 2 cups.
Toasting cumin seeds is most easily done in a small, dry skillet over low heat. Shake the pan as you go and pay careful attention. It takes only a few minutes to toast them—and a blink of an eye beyond that to irreparably burn them. You can use the same pan (and same method) to toast the peanuts, if you wish.
If you’re cooking the burgers in batches, keep the finished ones warm on a baking sheet or an ovenproof plate in a 250°F oven while you make the rest.
These freeze and reheat beautifully after they’ve been cooked.
Reprinted courtesy: The Heart of the Plate, Mollie Katzen, 2013. Copyright Houghton Mifflin Harcourt