How to Make the Perfect Spring Veggie Burger

Famed New York City chef Karliin Brooks has your backyard bash covered.

One of the best parts about spring’s blue(r) skies is that it means it’s time to start grilling vegan burgers in the great outdoors. So, for advice on how to maximize our grilling game, we sat down with Karliin Brooks, owner of New York City's The Squeeze, for tips on perfecting this classic sunny-weather meal. Brooks began her career when she opened the city's first raw food and juice truck, and since then, her business has grown into a collective of four storefronts offering vegan organic grab-and-go foods. She’s also the author of the book The Squeeze Life: Your Guide to the Best Bare Body at Any Age, which is why we knew she was the one who could help us make the most of veggie burger season.
VegNews: At The Squeeze, you have numerous veggie burgers, including a “bacon” black bean burger and a portabello, crimini, and porcini mushroom burger. Clearly, burgers are important to you, so what’s so great about them?
Karliin Brooks:
What’s more all-American, grill-me-on-the-beach, and leftover-friendly than a burger? Our veggie burgers are always made from whole, unprocessed foods because it makes you feel great. I avoid fake, processed foods—because they suck the energy and health out of the body—and animal products because animals are meant to be cuddled. Also, burgers are easy to transport to a picnic, take on hikes, serve at swank dinner parties (they can be dressed up and down with ease and finesse), and toted to your Aunt Sylvia’s family reunion. We also love firm buns, particularly the sprouted or gluten-free variety.
VN: Do you have any suggestions for dressing up spring burgers?
Everyone knows the burger is only half the battle, as the co-stars of the show are the spreads and condiments. Also, no all-American burger is complete without ketchup, Magic-Naise, and Pimento Cashew Cheeze, but if you want to dress to impress, I’d stack the burger architecturally with my recipes for BUFFalo Zucchini Chips and slices of jalepeño cheese log nestled into floating leaves of butter lettuce.
VN: Can you suggest the best burgers for kids?
I think kids like what adults secretly like, too, which is the bread, the sauces, the ketchup, the mayonnaise, and the pickles. In a burger, it seems like the sauces and the accoutrements take precedence over the burger itself. Kids like burgers that have lettuce, tomato, pickles, and ketchup. Just very, very simple. They don’t really go for the onions or any kind of cruciferous cabbage toppings.
VN: What side dishes do you recommend hosts also offer?
Whatever is local is always going to be the best addition to a barbecue. In the summer, corn is really great. In the spring, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts are really yummy. Keeping it seasonal is so important because food is supposed to be eaten when it’s grown, so whatever you have that’s as local as possible is going to be the most delicious and highly nutrient-dense addition you can have for your barbecue. It’s really about the sauces, so if you have a vegetable that’s kind of somewhat plain, dressing it up is the key to making anything taste scrumptious and delicious.
VN: Finally, what’s your favorite spring veggie burger recipe?
My absolute favorite burger consists of virtually one ingredient—portabello mushrooms—because they are high in potassium, fiber, and vitamin B. They’re also meaty, flavorful, and easy to grill. I’m all about health and ease. I use four marinated portabello mushrooms, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and one tablespoon of tamari (or Bragg Liquid Aminos). To marinate the mushrooms, I rub them with the extra virgin olive oil and the tamari, and then throw the patties on the grill with fresh parsley, rosemary, or thyme.
Maya Gottfried is the author of Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.

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