Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity
Summer Vegetable Burger
Tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, and olives are among the foundational flavors of southern Italian cooking. While tomatoes are a recent, post-Columbian arrival from the Americas, it may be surprising to learn that the eggplant is also rather recent arrival, having been brought to the region during the Arab conquest of the island around 1000 AD. It became an essential part of the regional diet where it is often called “carne della terra” – the meat of the earth. It slowly moved north up the peninsula where it was met with great suspicion by the Romans who referred to it as “mela insane” – the apple of insanity. The name stuck and eggplant in Italian is now known as “melanzana”.
The following burger is made with a wealth of raw and roasted summer vegetables bound together with bread crumbs and oats to create a sunny and hearty Italian-infused concoction.
1 pound eggplant
½ tablespoon salt, in all
2 medium tomatoes, deseeded, and cut into ¼” slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups minced onions
2 large garlic cloves, quartered
½ cup rolled oats, ground to a coarse meal in a food processor or blender
1 cup cracker/bread crumbs
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
½ teaspoon dried basil
1½ cups grated carrots
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Peel eggplant and cut into 1” dice. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse well in cold water, drain, and toss with oil. Mix with onion and garlic and place on baking sheet. Place sliced tomatoes onto a second oiled sheet. Place both sheets in oven and bake for at least 20 minutes until the eggplant is tender, the onion and garlic are lightly browned, and the tomatoes have begun to dry and brown. Remove both pans from the from oven and allow to cool.
Toast sesame seeds on a hot skillet until they begin to brown and release an aromatic steam. Remove from heat and cool.
Coarsely puree the roasted vegetables using a food processor or immersion blender. Mix with ground oats, bread/cracker crumbs, sesame seeds, marjoram, basil, grated carrots, remaining salt and pepper. Mix by hand, and add in more bread/cracker crumbs if the mixture is too loose to form patties. Taste and adjust seasonings. Let rest for at least 30 minutes.
This burger is best enjoyed on a split tomato-parmesan-olive roll topped with a slice of provolone and plenty of tomato marinara sauce.
Much of this burger can be home-grown and it makes a wonderful way to use your garden's summer bounty. We recommend using a large, meaty eggplant like Florida Market, Prosperosa, or Ukrainian Beauty. You'll want to use a meaty, flavorful tomato like Costoluto Genovese, Omar's Lebanese, Pantano Romanesco, or Rosso Sicilian. You should consider using a sweet onion like Alisa Craig. Use a pungent artichoke garlic like Lorz Italian or Chet's Italian Purple. The best carrot for use in this burger is a fat, sweet variety like Chantenay or Kuroda. We recommend a standard Italian Basil like Emily or Genovese. You should also consider growing your own sweet marjoram and sesame.