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Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 59.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Cookbook cues: The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet by Joni Marie Newman

In The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet (Fair Winds Press, $20), Joni Marie Newman compiles 101 all-vegan veggie burger recipes. And I thought Mark Bittman had a lot of them in his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Newman doesn't stick to what mimics a hamburger. These vegan patties are all over the map. Some are more like mock crab cakes, some go the Sloppy Joe route, and some are meant for breakfast in a very unburgerlike way.

The "Log Cabin Burger," for instance, was inspired by imagining what would happen in you mixed a pancake with "sausage," kind of like taking the McGriddle a step further, and then taking it even further by making it with tempeh. The "Peaches and Cream Burger" is, as Newman admits, "a cross between a thick pancake and a sweet biscuit." But most of what's here is more burger-like.

There are a number of standard approaches to a veggie burger base -- grains, like rice, often in a combo with mushrooms; nuts; mashed beans; and even potatoes. Newman takes most of them at one time or another throughout the 101 recipes.

A large number of the patties call for TVP granules -- textured vegetable protein, a dry soy flake that is reconstituted with water to make a kind of paste. I'm not a fan. I would much rather work with whole fresh vegetables and beans when messing around with a veggie burger, and my go-to recipe (somewhat labor intensive, but probably worth the trouble) is based on potatoes, carrots and spinach. But, even when skipping the TVP-based recipes in Newman's book, there's plenty to experiment with.

Fooling around with different veggie burger recipes is fun. Whatever you come up with is likely to be edible and the worst that will happen is that the patty will fall apart in the pan.

Most of Newman's 101 are beautifully photographed, too, which will make you want to try them. Meat really doesn't photograph this well.

Yeah, there are some burgers in here that I wouldn't make on a bet, like the "Oktoberfest Kraut Burger," which doesn't even look good in the photo, and others I have some doubts about, such as anything with zucchini, for fear it would end up too watery.

I liked #59, the Confetti Burger, formed from split peas and lentils and potato flakes and tarted up with red and green bell peppers, tomato paste, tahini and chipotle. I'm on a quinoa kick, so I also liked #49, the Super Quinoa Burger, very satisfying although it's not really very burger-like. Quinoa and cannellini, cashews and tahini and green peas combine for attractive croquettes, though I think serving it in a bun would drown out the more delicate flavor. Newman seems to be on the same page, as it's shown sans bun on a bed of rice. The chipotle sweet potato burger is another one that doesn't really mimic a hamburger, but is good all on its own.

If I learned just one thing from Best Veggie Burgers, it's that tahini almost always improves a veggie patty. And I don't doubt there's plenty more to learn.

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