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Food and Wine — St. Croix

July 15, 2001 - If you want to "go vegetarian" and eat local, too, then try making your own veggieburgers using ingredients such as pigeon peas, fresh seasonings and pepper sauce.
Pigeon peas make a great-tasting high-protein base for meatless burgers. Native to Africa -- and also known as Congo peas, no-eyed peas, gungo peas and gandules -- pigeon peas are members of the legume family, which also includes black, garbanzo, kidney, pinto and white beans. They are available fresh, canned and dried. The dried peas are best for the veggieburger recipe here.
To cook dried pigeon peas, first sort through and remove any defective peas. Rinse those to be used well, place them in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with about 2 inches of water. Without a lid, bring the water to a boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Simmer the peas until they are tender. (It typically takes between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 hours to cook a pound of dried peas.) For veggieburgers, drain the cooked peas well and then mash them thoroughly.
Like other legumes, pigeon peas have a bland flavor that takes on new life when combined with other flavorings. Cut up fresh seasonings -- springs of parsley, scallions, celery and thyme leaves; some garlic, too -- and blend them all into a bowl of mashed pigeon peas. For extra zip, add a splash of your favorite hot sauce, or perhaps even some chopped hot peppers. Bread crumbs, eggs and a little oil will bind the burger mix together.
The instructions here are for pan frying the veggieburgers, but you can also grill them. Serve them as sandwiches with whole-grain buns and fresh produce garnish, or as an entrée with broccoli and an extra serving of pigeon peas and rice on the side.

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Pigeon Pea Veggieburgers
2 cups cooked dried pigeon peas
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Splash of hot pepper sauce or chopped peppers, if desired
2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 1 egg white)
2 cups fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
Garnish: whole wheat buns, mayonnaise and/or ketchup, tomato slices, onion slices, lettuce leaves
Place cooked peas into a large mixing bowl. Mash thoroughly with a potato masher or fork. Add chopped scallions, celery, garlic, parsley, thyme, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper sauce; combine well with peas. Stir in eggs and 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Mix well. Form mixture into 6 palm-size burger patties. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Dip burgers in remaining bread crumbs, then place 3 burger patties in the hot skillet. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned, then turn and brown the other side. Remove from skillet. Add remaining tablespoon of oil, and dip the remaining 3 burger patties in bread crumbs and brown.
Makes 6 servings. Per serving (without garnishes): 280 calories, 4 gms fat (12 percent fat calories), no cholesterol, 360 mg sodium.
Nutrition note: In addition to protein, pigeon peas are a good source of B vitamins, iron and potassium. They are naturally free of fats, cholesterol and sodium.

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