Cheese stars in this meatless burger that has a yum factor

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This Oct. 2, 2017 photo shows a meatless cheesy oat burger in Bethesda, Md. Part-skim ricotta cheese is the star of a tasty meatless burger patty that looks almost like a turkey burger, but tastes more like an Italian-inspired fried cheese appetizer. (Melissa D'Arabian via AP)

As much as I love a juicy beef burger, I've become a little obsessed with creating veggie burgers that step in and satisfy without any meat.

Usual standby ingredients include nuts, seeds, lentils, mushrooms, tofu and of course, the ubiquitous black bean. Often, I'm aiming for texture and heft and umami. If I'm honest, I'm looking for a swap to fool my palate into thinking I've just had meat. That's not a bad goal, but today's recipe goes a whole different direction. And that direction is: cheese. Yep, I made a burger whose main ingredient is cheese, and my whole family rejoiced.

Part-skim ricotta cheese is the star of this tasty patty that looks almost like a turkey burger, but tastes more like an Italian-inspired fried cheese appetizer. Using part-skim ricotta removes much of the fat and calories of whole-milk ricotta while still keeping the cheese and yum factor in check.

Whole oats give the patty structure (and healthy fiber) and egg white quietly keeps the patty together so that it cooks up sturdier than many bean burgers (don't let the sticky raw mixture fool you).

Minced shallot and garlic, steam-sauteed in a little broth, add moisture and flavor. My family loved these patties topped with tomato slices and fresh basil, but feel free to go the ketchup and mustard route if you need to scratch the classic burger itch.

MEATLESS CHESSY OAT BURGER

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 30 minutes (including 10 minutes chilling time)

1/3 cup minced shallot or sweet onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth

11/4 cup part skim ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning

1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup egg white (about 1 large or 2 small egg whites)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

a few grinds of fresh black pepper

8 tomato slices

fresh basil, for garnish

Olive oil in a mister, or nonstick spray

Heat a medium nonstick saute pan on medium heat.

Place the minced shallot, garlic and broth in the pan and cook stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, but still quite wet, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Italian seasoning, paprika, oats, egg white, cooled shallot mixture and salt and pepper.

Form into four even patties, moistening hands with water if mixture is sticky. (If mixture is too wet to form into patties, mix in an additional tablespoon of oats and let sit for a few minutes for the moisture to absorb.)

Place the patties on parchment paper or a plate sprayed lightly with olive oil (or nonstick spray), and place in the freezer for 5 minutes, or the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Wipe the nonstick pan clean with a towel and heat over medium heat again. Spray pan with olive oil mister. Cook the patties in the pan until sides are golden and patties are heated through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve with fresh tomato slices and fresh basil, if desired.

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Nutrition information per serving: 243 calories; 74 calories from fat; 8 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 24 mg cholesterol; 364 mg sodium; 28 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 15 g protein.

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Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy."

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Online: http://www.melissadarabian.net

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