Not too long ago, when you invited people over for burgers on the grill they'd assume you meant a traditional beef hamburger. These days the definition of burger has expanded to include patties of all sorts, from shrimp to quinoa to beans.
"There are purists who say that a burger is beef, and that's fine, but the bottom line is that I call a burger a burger whether it's eggplant or beans or shrimp," says grilling guru Jamie Purviance, author of "Weber's Big Book of Burgers." Purviance has written more than a dozen books on grilling for Palatine-based Weber Stephen Products LLC. His books even have been translated into French and German.
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"In the history of hamburgers, it wasn't always ground beef," he says. "The idea of a burger has been evolving for some time.
"Mainstream America doesn't question at all a bean burger being called a burger. We have broadened our definition as it suits us."
That said, a traditional beef hamburger does share qualities with its non-beef brethren.
"It starts with flavor ... a blend of flavor, then texture," he says. "You expect a certain amount of texture and chunk in a burger."
In developing the 84 -- that's 84 -- burger recipes for the book (there are also 29 recipes for sausages, brats and hot dogs as well as another 40-plus for sides, seasonings and drinks), Purviance says the meatless varieties took the most time.
"In general, the vegetarian are the hardest to get right ... not just the combination of flavors, but executing them on the grill," he says. "Beans, egg and bread crumbs ... it was more effort adding flavors and getting a rounding complex flavor without being too dry. Beans don't hold together like beef. They tend to fall apart on you."
So for patties with beans, he suggests cooking them on a griddle or grill pan that supports the burger and makes it easy to turn without falling apart.
The bread that cradles the burger once it's off the grill also has been evolving. The typical white bread hamburger bun has made way for whole wheat and grainy varieties, and pretzel buns have become the darling of gourmet burger restaurants. Purviance serves his Shrimp Burgers with Remoulade on challah. In Better Homes and Gardens' "Fresh Grilling," Kaiser rolls and garlic bread sandwich the Burger with Pickled Beets and Fried Egg and the Turkey Burgers with Peaches and Blueberries, respectively. You can use slightly charred flour tortillas for a Mexican-influenced black bean burger.
Purviance says he doesn't expect our love affair with burgers to end anytime soon.
"Because burgers are continuing to evolve they don't suffer from redundancy," he says. "There's always room for a surprise or two."
Use today's recipes to surprise family and friends at your next summer cookout, or tweak them to come up with your own surprises.