So. California. Home to the vegetarian movement in the U.S. The Golden State whose sunshine and mild climate makes possible remarkable produce all year long. Hotbed of almost countless sustainable food startups and home to internationally influential chefs. And place where, to date, my out of home dining experiences have for the most part led to absolutely delicious foods that are as fresh a treat as one could hope for. Except for, you won’t believe it, shockingly underwhelming veggie burgers. I am dumbstruck. I’m not going to name names but…
The first was a pile of grilled peppers and onions between thick slices of focaccia, which as anyone who’s eaten grilled a vegetable knows could only lead to one thing – deconstructing the entire pile and eating it pitifully with a knife and fork, lest the slippery veggies embarrassingly flop right out of the sandwich upon first bite. I’d ordered it after a 12 mile hike and was excited for a hearty sandwich but not in the mood for an all out beef burger. I think it was the straight-up false advertising on that particular menu that irked the most – the vegetables themselves were fine, if a ridiculous stand-in for a veggie burger.
The second, a cruel joke, was ordered after the waitress nodded emphatically and even added ‘they are really good’ when I asked ‘are the veggie burgers homemade?’ Okay then, Veggie Burger Take II and with all debts forgiven. But. While an actual patty did appear, it was more like a fried potato cake, al la Happy Meal, than any veggie burger, homemade or frozen, I’ve encountered. I’m no aficionado, but a hash brown? Hunger being the best sauce, I ate it, meanwhile swearing off ordering veggie burgers until further notice. (That being said, if anyone can personally attest to the legitimacy and deliciousness of a veggie-burger in the greater San Francisco Bay Area or, I am all ears!!)
Why these veggie burger disasters were so annoying (not counting aforementioned platforms indicating that to expect a great veggie burger in California is more than reasonable) is that regardless of location, they are just so easy to make. There are plenty of approaches, and why I like this particular one is that it uses earthy flavors and savory spices, so while there is no mistaking this for anything other than what it is, it satisfies the hearty flavor quotient you hope when craving a burger but without the heaviness. Plus by using quinoa, nuts and Greek yogurt, this version delivers substantial lean protein and healthy fats. And, again not fooling anyone, but I like how the beets make them not just antioxidant powerhouses, but also red and generally burger-like.
Protein-Packed Veggie Burger
Hands-On Time: 30 Minutes
Special Equipment: Micro-plane or cheese grater, garlic press, potato masher or food processor.
For the Burgers:
- 1/4 Cup Quinoa
- 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
- 1 Small Pat Butter
- 1/2 Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped
- 1-2 Cloves Garlic, Smashed and Coarsly Chopped
- 1 Cup Finely Chopped Mushrooms
- 1 15 oz Can Black Beans, well rinsed and drained
- 1 Cup Finely Ground Raw Beet (about 2 medium beets)
- 1 Tsp Cumin
- 1/2 Tsp Chili Powder
- 1/4 Tsp Paprika
- 1 Tsp Worchestershire Sauce
- 1/2 Cup Raw Pecans, finely chopped
- Salt & Pepper
For the Topping:
- 1/2 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt (Non-fat, 2% or Whole)
- 1/4 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
- 1 Garlic Clove, pushed through a garlic press or finely chopped
- Generous Pinch Maldon Sea Salt or Salt
- Cook the quinoa by adding the chicken stock and quinoa to a medium saucepan, bringing to a boil, then simmering, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover & stir to aerate.
- Meanwhile, measure out and set all burger ingredients within arm’s reach.
- Melt a small pat of butter over medium heat, then sauté the chopped onion until turning translucent, about seven minutes.
- Add the garlic and mushrooms and sauté another five minutes.
- Off the heat, and add the black beans. Using the potato masher or food processor, mash or process the beans until about 2/3 smooshed maintaining some texture for the burgers.
- Place the onion and bean mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the beets, spices, Worchestershire sauce and chopped nuts. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place the veggie burger mixture in the fridge to momentarily cool.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Once oven nears 375, remove mixture from fridge and shape into four uniform patties.
- Brush the top of the patties with olive oil (or use spray olive oil! it’s pretty handy) and bake for 20 minutes. Gently flip, treat the other side with olive oil and bake another 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the Greek yogurt topping: simply mix all listed ingredients.
- Toast hamburger buns in the oven for the last five-seven minutes that the burgers are baking.
Really easy and, yum!