When people first learn that I'm vegetarian, I usually get flooded with questions. The first question always being, "Why did you make the switch?" and the second often being, "Do you miss eating meat?" For the most part, those are the questions people stick to asking, but on rare occasion, I'll get enough questions to appease the thorough hearts of criminal interrogators. "What do you eat?" Uh, lots of stuff. "When do you eat?" Breakfast, lunch and dinner... just like you. "What does vegetarian food taste like?" Vegetables? "Are you anemic?" I hope not. "Does it make you uncomfortable that I'm eating this 16 oz cheeseburger in front of you?" Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I'm enjoying it vicariously. "What do you miss eating most?" Lamb. "What do you miss eating least?" Chicken. "Was your vegetarianism provoked by a quarter-life crisis?" Unlike John Mayer, I haven't succumbed to a quarter-life crisis. "Do you eat seafood?" Yes, when dining out, but I don't cook it at home. "Do you eat cheese and eggs?" Life isn't worth living without cheese. "How many pounds of tofu do you eat everyday?" None, actually. I don't like tofu very much. "Doesn't your body feel weak without eating meat?" It actually feels much stronger, and I'll challenge you to a yoga pose-off to prove it. Side-plank, go! "How long have you been vegetarian?" It will be one year on Saturday (7/30)! I don't shy away from answering these questions (in fact, I enjoy answering them), but I also don't offer much detail in my responses. Becoming a vegetarian was a decision I made for myself, and I don't think it's appropriate to coerce or guilt others into making the switch. However, I'm always up to show people, through taste, how wonderful vegetarian food can be.
Back to one of the more commonly asked questions, "Do you miss eating meat?" I can honestly say that I don't miss eating meat, because there are so many fantastic alternatives. I'm not referring solely to meat substitutes either. I'm talking about hearty vegetables, beans, and grains that provide more than enough protein to keep a person energized for hours. Building on this concept, I decided to come up with a few recipes to prove that vegetarian meals can be just as filling and delicious as those containing meat. Inspired by the fresh summer air, I decided to make a bright, citrusy chickpea burger with homemade tzatziki and pair it with fries baked with rosemary and sage. The result is truly something that all types of eaters will love. The chickpea burgers with tzatziki are vibrant and satisfying, and the fries are a-mazing. The addition of rosemary and sage, two very savory and gamey herbs, turns the fries into something extraordinarily special. This is a meal that was built on the inspiration to please everyone, and I'm certain it will do just that.
Blissful Basil's Chickpea Burgers (Makes 6 Burgers)
◊ 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
◊ 1 egg
◊ ½ cup grated parmesan
◊ ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
◊ ½ tbsp cumin
◊ ⅛ tsp cayenne
◊ 2 garlic cloves, minced
◊ Juice from ½ lemon
◊ Pinch of sea salt
◊ 7 oz greek yogurt (2% fat)
◊ ½ tsp sea salt
◊ Juice ½ lemon
◊ 1 garlic clove, minced
◊ 1 Persian cucumber, finely diced
◊ 6 whole-wheat hamburger buns
◊ 2 cups mixed greens
For the patties: In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork until a coarse paste forms. Add in the egg, parmesan, parsley, cumin, cayenne, and garlic and stir until incorporated. Add in the lemon juice and salt and stir. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Form mixture into equally-sized patties. Place patties in freezer for 15-20 minutes before cooking. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook patties, one at a time, for 4-5 minutes on each side or until browned. The key to keeping the patties together is cooking them cold, cooking them, uninterrupted, for 4-5 minutes per side, and letting them rest for 5-10 minutes after cooking.
For the tzatziki: While the patty mixture is refrigerating, make the tzatziki. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to be used.
To assemble: Place chickpea burgers on one side of whole-wheat bun and top with a dollop of tzatziki. Top other half of bun with a small handful of mixed greens. Serve alongside rosemary-sage fries.
Blissful Basil's Baked Rosemary-Sage Fries (Makes a whole lotta fries)
◊ 3 lbs russet potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed
◊ 3 tbsp olive oil
◊ 5 sprigs sage
◊ 6 sprigs rosemary
◊ sea salt
◊ black pepper
Cut the potatoes into fry-sized pieces and let soak in cold water for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400°F. Strain the potatoes. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and place the potato pieces on them. Pat the potatoes dry with paper towels. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes. Remove rosemary and sage leaves from sprigs and sprinkle evenly over potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Bake in oven for 40-60 minutes or until fries are golden brown and herbs are crisp, being sure to rotate the fries every 15 minutes.