The nineteen-person Moosewood Collective and the groundbreaking Moosewood Restaurant have been serving up plant-based grub since before you learned the words “juice cleanse.” They’ve tweaked the recipe for their tofu burger over decades to make it one of the holy grails of gluten-free burgers.
There’s nothing worse than the freezer-burn-ridden consolation of a veggie burger thrown on the grill as an afterthought at a backyard barbecue – especially when the burned brat bits are picked up from the grill. In this Moosewood recipe, the carnivores will be the ones missing out.
Moosewood’s Classic Tofu Burgers
Photo credit Jim Scherer for MOOSEWOOD
The Moosewood Collective says, “Our all-time favorite, luscious burgers the way we make them now: Vegan and wheat-free.
“Tofu burgers have been a favorite at the restaurant since we can remember. Our customers often call to ask, “Are tofu burgers on the menu today?” They love ’em! In the early years, we almost always served them on a thick slice of whole wheat toast with lettuce, tomato slices, and Russian dressing. Now we serve them various ways; some suggestions follow the recipe.
“Because of the increase in the number of our customers who are either gluten intolerant or trying to reduce their consumption of wheat, we’ve developed ways to make our various kinds of tofu burgers without the bread crumbs we used to use in our published recipes and in the restaurant. Dicing the vegetables small, finely grating the tofu in a food processor, and grinding the walnuts all help to make a mix that will hold its shape.
“This recipe makes eight large burgers, or you can shape the mix into smaller patties or “meatballs.” We’re happy when we have extra burgers and can freeze them for later (see Notes).”
Yields 8 burgers
Prep time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 30 to 40 minutes
2 14- to 16- ounce blocks firm tofu
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups diced onions
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup grated carrots
1⁄2 cup seeded and diced bell peppers (any color)
1 cup coarsely ground toasted walnuts
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1⁄4 cup tahini
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil
First press the tofu for at least 30 minutes (see below).
While the tofu presses, prepare the rest of the burger mix, and when you’re ready to grate the tofu, discard the expressed liquid.
In a covered skillet on low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and oregano, and cook on low heat for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and bell peppers and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.
Finely grate the pressed tofu in a food processor and add it to the bowl of cooked vegetables along with the walnuts, soy sauce, mustard, sesame oil, tahini, pepper, and basil. Mix well and add more soy sauce to taste.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
Using about a cup per burger, shape the mix into 8 burgers. Set the burgers on the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
How to Press Tofu
Whether or not you need to press tofu depends on both how it’s used in the recipe and the quality of the tofu. Soft and silken tofus are never pressed. Firm, and even extra- firm, tofu may contain a lot of moisture, and that can affect the outcome. It may not matter too much in some recipes, for instance baked tofu— you may just have to bake it longer.
But the extra liquid that some tofu holds may make something like a filling or burger mix too wet. Pressing tofu expresses some of that water, making the tofu denser and more firm. It’s surprising how much liquid pools around some tofu during pressing. At the restaurant, we almost exclusively use firm fresh tofu, and we usually press it for an hour or so before using it to make it even firmer. We put the blocks of tofu in a flat- bottomed baking pan and put another flat pan on top of it. Then we put weight in the top pan, usually a stack of plates. In our home kitchens, depending on the recipe and if we have firm fresh tofu, we often don’t press it at all. Sometimes we simply press it gently between our hands, held over the sink, and that’s fi ne for many uses. If the tofu you have isn’t a firm fresh tofu, we suggest that you always press it. Whatever tofu you have, if you’re going to grate it, we recommend that you press it.
Place the block of tofu in a broad, flat bowl or casserole dish, put a plate on top of the tofu, and balance a heavy can or book on the plate. After the tofu has pressed for about 30 minutes, drain the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl. If you’re not yet ready to use the tofu or if you want to press it more, refrigerate it. How long the tofu should be pressed depends on the tofu you have. To be safe, if a recipe needs dense, firm tofu, press it until no more liquid has accumulated ten minutes after you poured the water off. In our recipes that call for firm tofu, we tell you when pressing is probably not necessary, and when you need quite firm tofu, in which case, you should press it well. We can’t think of an instance in which tofu would be pressed too long, even if it were all day or overnight. On the other hand, if you’re pressed for time, just press it until you’re ready for it and it will probably be ok. If you use the same kind of tofu regularly, you’ll come to know how firm or wet it is.
The burgers will be a little sturdier if you use bread crumbs, about 2⁄3 cup for this recipe, especially if the tofu you use is soft. Gluten- free bread and bread crumbs are available, so if you’re avoiding wheat and gluten you have that option.
To freeze these burgers, simply wrap cooled, baked burgers in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. To reheat, bake on an oiled baking sheet, right from the freezer, at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through— the time will depend on how fat your burgers are.
“Meatballs”—Add ground fennel seeds to the cooking onions, shape the mix into small balls and bake for about 20 minutes for 11⁄2- inch balls. These are great with spaghetti and Tomato- Basil Sauce
Reuben Burger—Top with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian Dressing and serve pickles on the side.
Mediterranean Burger—Top with Caramelized Onions and melted Gruyère or Fontina cheese.
SERVING AND MENU IDEAS
Serve these luscious vegan burgers in a bun or on rice or toast.
From MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT FAVORITES by The Moosewood Collective. Copyright © 2013 by Moosewood, Inc. and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.