I was advised against labeling this a “Falafel Burger” because of the (undeservedly) negative associations around falafel and its tendency to be dry or crumbly when served in the western world. While I can wholeheartedly reassure you that nothing about this burger calls to mind such ugly words as “dry” or “crumbly”, the fact remains that this burger is deeply reminiscent of a very delicious falafel. Oh, and for the record, the word “spongy” is also unwelcome in positive feedback regarding food (I’m only talking to you, Jon).
Studded with caramelized morsels of cauliflower and bound together by the tireless duo of quinoa and chickpeas, this burger absolutely screams with flavour. As if that weren’t enough to sell you, the sauce alone is worth bathing in. Not for real because you’d for sure get a nasty mayonnaise-induced rash or something, but like, bathe your mouth in it by all means.
I fussed over adapting and tweaking this burger so many times that the corresponding pages in my recipe journal look like the scribblings of a deranged lunatic. You’d half expect to find them littering the floors of a house entirely decorated in creepy-eyed dollies. I pulled my hair out over perfecting this burger so that you didn’t have to. Don’t say I never did you any favours.
Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpea Burger
Very liberally inspired by Whole Hearted Eats (Cajun Chickpea Burger)
1 medium-sized cauliflower
6 ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
1 ½ tsp salt, divided + more to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced finely
2 cloves of garlic
1 19-oz (541 ml) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp gram or chickpea flour
½ cup cooked quinoa, cooled
4 pretzel buns
4 tbsp soft butter
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
Juice from ½ lemon
1 heaping tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
Butter lettuce leaves or assorted spring greens
2 large Roma tomatoes, sliced thickly
8 thick slices halloumi cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. While the oven heats, chop the cauliflower into small florets, discarding any long, tough stems. Place the florets in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil until each piece is slick, then sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss again. Roast for at least 30 minutes, shaking the tray every 10-15 minutes, until the cauliflower is evenly golden-brown with slightly charred, crispy edges. I usually push my cauliflower a bit further and roast it for 45 minutes, just before it actually burns, but if this will cause you undue fret just pull it out between the 30-40 minute mark. Taste the cauliflower once it is cool enough to handle. It should be tender and well-seasoned with crisp, caramelized edges. The cauliflower should taste like something you could easily eat on its own (since it will make up a big part of the burger’s flavour profile).
While the cauliflower cools, pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a small pan set over medium heat. Sauté the diced onion in the pan until translucent and lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer the onions and garlic to a small bowl to cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the chickpeas, parsley, cumin, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, ½ tsp salt, and cooled onion mixture. Pulse 2-3 times until very coarsely chopped. Add the cooled cauliflower and pulse 2-3 more times. The mixture should be blended enough to break down any bigger pieces, but still be chunky enough to give the burger texture. Under-chopping is FAR better than over-chopping as the latter leads to mushier burgers that cannot hold their shape. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the gram/chickpea flour and the cooked quinoa. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes so the flour can absorb any excess liquid.
While the burger mixture rests, make the garlic sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and season as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Lay a large piece of parchment paper out on your workspace. Divide the cauliflower mixture into 4 equal lumps on the parchment paper and shape into thick, round patties (a bit smaller than your buns). If not cooking immediately, cut the parchment paper around the patties into large squares and stack the patties atop one another in a lidded container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Once you’re ready to start cooking the burgers, place a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and set it aside. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, gently place 2 burger patties in the pan. Sprinkle a pinch of salt onto the patties and turn over after about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the other side with salt. The patties take about 5 minutes to cook and should have a golden-brown sear on each side. Cook for longer if you have not achieved a good crust on the outside. Transfer the patties to the prepared baking sheet and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with remaining 2 burgers, heating 1 more tbsp of oil in the pan prior to frying.
Heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is very hot, lay the slices of halloumi down and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown. While the halloumi sears, split and generously butter the pretzel buns. Wipe out the burger pan and pan-fry the buns, butter side down, until lightly toasted (about 2 minutes).
Assemble the burgers by placing 2 slices of halloumi on the bottom half of each bun. That’s right, on the bottom half. This is a legitimate trick for ensuring that the cheese in your burger comes into contact with your tongue more easily. And halloumi is such a delicious cheese that you want to maximize that squeaky, salty goodness as much as possible. Place a burger patty on the halloumi and top with lettuce/greens and tomato slices. Spread a generous spoonful of garlic sauce on the top half of each bun. Lightly press the bun down on top of the burger and serve with extra garlic sauce on the side. Cut your burger in half if you can bear to vandalize such a masterpiece. Take a bite and let your eyes roll back into your head. Bliss.