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Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers
A sneak peek from the new Veggie Burgers Every Which Way — for Independent Bookstore Day
This week I received an advance copy of Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, the updated second edition and — it’s beautiful! Published by The Experiment, with vibrant new photos by Evi Abeler and styling by Albane Sharrard that just sing on the page, there are also several new and many revisited recipes, including Made by Lukas burgers which I’ve never shared before. Also it’s a sturdy, durable hardcover, which delights me to no end after believing for a while I’d only ever be a “trade paperback original” kind of author. I’m so excited to share it with everyone when it publishes in just about a month, on June 6th.
With this weekend officially being Independent Bookstore Day (I know, they should just call it Independent Bookstore Weekend), I thought it an ideal time to give you a sneak-peek recipe, and to offer another nudge to consider preordering this new edition. Buying books from small, independent bookstores is a source of great pleasure for me; I really want them to thrive. For me, bookstores are one of the few remaining “third spaces” now that coffee shops are just satellite offices, and they have so much power to add to a neighborhood and be a force of good for it.
From culinary shops like Archestratus in Brooklyn, to Brooklyn Larder in Seattle, and Now Serving in Los Angeles, where I’ve been so lucky to teach classes and do events; to other indie favorites in cities I frequent, like Word After Word in Truckee, CA; The Rediscovered Bookshop in Boise, ID; and Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC; to historic Three Lives in Manhattan, sprawling Powell’s in Portland, OR (where I could literally bring a sleeping bag and stay for a long weekend), and Skylight Books in San Francisco with it’s pre-tech SF spirit… if you’re a reader and a bibliophile, you know how great these places are and what a hub they are for a city and a neighborhood.
You can preorder Veggie Burgers Every Which Way at any of those bookshops, by ordering online or visiting in person, or at your own favorite local spot. And it’s a terrific weekend to go support these shops with the purchase of any book. (What are you reading lately? What cookbooks are you liking?) With a rainy forecast through the weekend here on the east coast, I can’t think of anything better than settling in with a book.
Now, the recipe. I’ve always loved these Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage burgers for their unexpected richness, thanks to the combination of sweet browned onions, sesame oil, and tahini. It’s worthwhile to cook the onions with some care, so as to allow them to caramelize and become sweet. And any variety of sweet potato will work — the purple ones lending the most dramatic color. Serve with a yogurt sauce or simply drizzled with tahini and some crisp vegetables like cucumber slices, sprouts, or lettuce (I love shaved fennel, too).
I’ve included some extra info on the cooking method. In the first edition of my book, I really advocated for the stovetop-plus-oven method, which does still work best, but I’ve come to realize that for some people, that’s just one extra step too many. So the recipes now focus on stovetop-cooking only, but with a lengthy deep dive on cooking methods in its own section in the book.
Sesame Sweet Potato & Cabbage Burgers
My favorite veggie burger cooking method involves both the oven and the stovetop, but I realize that can be a bit much when you just want to eat, so I’ve revisited these recipes to focus on the stovetop, and then provided a deep dive in the book on the many cooking methods that are available to you. If you have the time, though, the combination of a stovetop sear plus the indirect heat of the oven results in a better veggie burger texture, allowing the burgers to dry out so that they aren’t mushy, but still get a nice and crispy char on the exterior. To follow this method, preheat your oven to 375°F. After you’ve seared your burgers on the stovetop, transfer them either to a sheet pan or arrange them in your oven-safe skillet if they all fit, and move to the oven to bake for 12 to 15 minutes more, until firmed up. You can also reverse this method, baking them first until firmed up, and then a few hours or even a day or two later, reheat them in a skillet or on your outdoor grill.
Recipe excerpted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, Revised and Updated Second Edition, © 2023 by Lukas Volger, published by The Experiment
Yield 4 large or 6 medium burgers | Prep time 20 minutes | Cook time 15 minutes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
Scant ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 medium sweet potato, coarsely grated
2 cups shredded cabbage
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon well-stirred tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup panko or coarse bread crumbs, plus more if needed
1. Set your widest skillet over medium heat and when hot, swirl in 2 tablespoons of the oil, followed by the onions and cayenne. Fry until soft and they begin to color deeply, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the sesame oil, followed by the sweet potato, cabbage, and salt. Cover and cook until tender, stirring periodically, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, tahini, and lemon juice until combined. Add the potato-cabbage mixture, then fold in the panko or breadcrumbs. Add additional panko if the mixture seems loose, but err on the side of wet because the burgers will firm up as the cook and cool. If you have time, let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes, and even overnight in an airtight container, then shape into 4 large or 6 smaller patties.
3. To cook, wipe out the skillet and return it to medium heat, then swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add as many burgers as will fit comfortably without crowding the pan (usually 2 or 3 for me), and cook until seared and crisped on the bottoms, 5 to 7 minutes, then flip and repeat on the other side, lowering the heat if they begin to burn. The burgers will firm up a bit as they cook, and further once they’re removed from the heat and have cooled slightly. Serve warm.
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