Kev leaves for work and comes home to find a more grown up version of Hal. At least that’s what he says 2.5 days out of the week. Of course, I can’t see it because I’m with her half the day. We don’t live near our extended family. Mostly because we’ve yet to convince them to trade in the south for the north. But Summer’s let us enjoy their company. From each appendage of our extended family, usually on the first day of our visit, I get the same question. “Are you a vegetarian now?”
I guess I’ve changed over the months and the years. But haven’t we all? Less frosting, more vegetables. This space is tied so tightly to our everyday lives, it’s hard to see the shifts. In the early days, my recipes were made from weekends without plans and a tiny human. They were longwinded, layered, and usually wrapped in an Italian meringue frosting. Now, life is a semi-manageable chaos. So my recipes are short, sweet in a different way, and vegetable laden. My friend says it’s important to communicate shifts. It took these quinoa burgers and that repeated question for me to acknowledge it.
“So, are you a vegetarian now?”
No, but I wouldn’t call myself a carnivore either. As the years have gone on, I find myself leaning towards Michael Pollan’s advice. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It started with a budget cut while Kev was in grad school. Dropping meat from our receipt made a significant impact. As time trickled on, we just kind of never added it back in, except on occasion.
This whole conversation about diets can be a polarizing one though, which is not my intention. In fact, my neighbor came over for happy hour the other day and started talking about the NPR show she had just listened to about diets linked to longevity—life past 100. “Plant-based, whole grains, and legumes. That’s you!” she said. “I’m not sure I want to live past 100 though,” I said. I found the article she referenced. They also said to drink alcohol moderately and regularly (1-2 glasses a day). If I’ve done anything right, it’s that.
About the recipe—when I set out to work on a plant-based burger, I wanted to create something reminiscent of a beef burger. Protein-packed, firm exterior with a semi-soft interior, and enough grit to each bite. No squishy sweet potato centers. I prefer mine in french fry form. It also had to look reminiscent of a meat burger for tradition sake. One thousand tests later, and I’ve landed right here. An egg and oat flour act as the binding agent. Black quinoa and black beans bring the color and texture. As with any burger, it’s what’s above and below the patty that seals the deal. I cannot recommend these homemade brioche buns and this special burger sauce enough.
Enough diet talk. Let’s cut the watermelon already.
Prepare quinoa. Into a saucepan, combine quinoa ingredients. (Rinse quinoa if you wish.) Bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low, cover and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until just tender. The skinny white ring around the grain will be visible. Once cooked, add to an uncovered bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. You can make this a couple days in advance. (This quinoa will be on the salty side which is necessary to carry enough flavor throughout the burger.)
Prepare the burgers. Drain and rinse black beans. Roughly mash the beans. Add in the cooled quinoa, chopped nuts, oat flour, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, and a couple cracks of pepper. Stir together until evenly incorporated. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg. Fold into the burger mixture. Set aside. At this point, you can store the mixture in your fridge up to a day.
Meanwhile, prepare the griddle. Turn burners to medium heat and continue to heat for about 10 minutes or until griddle is hot. Spray griddle with a high heat oil. Form the patties to the same width as the buns. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Using a sturdy spatula, remove patties to a baking sheet. Eat immediately or keep warm in a warmed oven.
Or, fry the patties! This might be our favorite way to eat these burgers. To a heated cast iron skillet, add a 1/2″ layer of high heat oil. Place the formed patties into the oil and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Again, using a sturdy spatula, remove patties to a baking sheet. Eat immediately or keep warm in a warmed oven.
• Black Quinoa acts different from other quinoas. It’s drier, more toothsome, and takes longer to cook. If subbing in a different type of quinoa, use less water (check package instructions) and lower the cook time. • Oat Flour can be purchased but it can be made just as easily. In a food processor or high-powered blender blitz oats until they become a flour. • Worcestershire Sauce is technically not vegetarian. It is pescatarian friendly. My dad always added a couple dashes to his burgers growing up. I had to do the same to these. Omit if desired.