Quinoa Black Bean Burgers

Perhaps a strange confession for this digital space of mine, I must admit I’m a real fan of tangible reading materials.  I love to smell the pages of a musty old novel or graze my fingers over the cover of a shiny new copy of Real Simple.  So I subscribe to a couple of in-print magazines.  I love devouring the recipe photos in a brand-new issue of my favorite mags – flashing through a month full of new ideas for things to cook and eat.  I try so hard to savor each article, not looking ahead to the most interesting ones but rather reading it like a book to make it last longer.

Recipe reading is I’m sure a guilty pleasure I share with many in this community of food bloggers and readers.   (When I can’t sleep, I often sit on the loveseat and read the beastly (in size) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by lamplight until my eyelids get a bit heavier.)  But many times a recipe can be just that, reading material.  Then there are those times, there is that recipe, which jolts you into must-make-this-immediately mode.

Well, for whatever reason these quinoa burgers, featured in Whole Living‘s grilling feature this month, hit that button in me.  I made them as soon as I got home from work (I sometimes get to read my magazines at my job!)  I switched out some ingredients because I didn’t have everything called for on hand, but I feel like these turned out so delish that I’d definitely make these alterna-patties “my way” again.

The original recipe uses kidney beans; I used black.  I also subbed Vidalia onions for shallot, crumbled goat cheese instead of feta, whole eggs instead of whites, and added cornmeal to dry up the mixture a little and make patty-formation a much easier feat.

I melted Wisconsin cheddar onto a whole-wheat tortilla in the frying pan and then folded the hot tortilla around the burgers.  If I’d had avocado, it would have been a big-money addition to this sandwich.

I must say though, these turned out great.  They were everything I want a frozen black bean burger to be but never is: fresh-tasting, bearing a perfectly crisp exterior and soft, warm interior.  Perhaps it was the lack of hydrolyzed soy protein or maybe just the way I formed them by hand and cooked them so lovingly in their wading pool of olive oil.  I like that you can really taste the beans, because I sure like beans – quinoa boldly offers up its winning texture while grated carrots and goat cheese lend crunch and creaminess respectively.

Try these – even if like me, you don’t have a grill.  Eat them outside if you can because everything tastes better that way.  The burgers are not too hard to make, and with a side of roasted veggies and perhaps a watermelon wedge, they make a darn good meat-free Monday supper.  I recommend making extras so you can heat one up whenever you need a quick lunch this week!

Quinoa Black Bean Burgers – makes 6 sandwiches

adapted from Whole Living magazine – June 2012

Ingredients:

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed well

½ medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, finely chopped

1 big or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and finely grated

2 cups cooked quinoa (any color!)

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 eggs, lightly whisked

¼ cup cornmeal or as needed for consistency

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 100% whole wheat tortillas

cheddar cheese and avocado for sandwich assembly

Method:

In a biggish bowl, mash black beans into a thick paste with a fork, then mix in onion, carrot, cooked quinoa (slightly cooled), goat cheese, salt, and eggs.  Incorporate cornmeal by the tablespoon until mixture resembles something you could make patties out of (not runny).

Form mixture into six or so patties and allow to chill out in fridge for 30 minutes on a wax paper lined plate.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat (or directly on grill grates if you are so lucky and inclined) and cook patties until golden brown (add remaining tablespoon oil if cooking in batches), 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove burgers to paper towel lined plate.  Turn heat to medium/low, warm tortillas in same pan, sprinkling with cheddar, until cheese is just melted.

Serve burgers snuggled inside the tortillas with slices of avocado to your liking.

Note: you can cook all the burgers right away and just heat up leftovers, or leave remaining patties uncooked until ready to eat to ensure crisp burgers each time.

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Strawberry Savings Account

A sunny Monday morning brings to mind my waffle maker, and the 10+ pounds of strawberries in the freezer. This waffle variety is half rice flour, half buckwheat flour, all delicious. They turned out surprisingly light and airy, with a lot of grainy crunch. Under this mound of fresh strawberries, I barely needed a drizzle of maple syrup.

strawberry jam forever

Oh sweet sweetness.

I have just arrived home from an excursion, an adventure, an undertaking in jam making.  I’m a bath-robed loveseat potato, hunkering down to write after having a long shower and a much needed Lakefront Summer Weiss.  I want to get this out before I forget all the wonderful things that happened today.

So… Brandon and I decided it would be cool to give out jars of homemade jam as favors to our wedding guests this summer.  My ever-optimistic mom was all on board, so she contacted her friend, jam-making maven and saint of strawberries, Sherry.  Truth be told this project would have never arose from the “cute idea” ether if it weren’t for this lady.

Let me tell you about Sherry.  Before today I’d never met her.  We had merely exchanged a few emails, through my mom, concerning quantity/brands of pectin – but I had insta-good vibes from the smiley-faced sunshine that accompanied her e-signature.

And now I know it, I am blessed to know Sherry.  She not only put this whole jammy affair together, from the picking of the fruit to the canning of the jam, but also opened her home to us, patiently taught us all the steps of the process, prepared us a comforting lunch, and gave me a beautiful apron she sewed herself(!).  I am overwhelmed by her kindness, and both her and my mom’s ardent determination in getting this thing done.

I am not yet proficient at getting the ball rolling on mondo projects.  I sometimes find them intimidating and tiring to even think about.  Sherry was the ball roller; Brandon and I were the marbles. Rolling commenced.  And before we knew it there were 144 garnet-colored quarter-pint jars of strawberry jam in the trunk of our car.

Yesterday was my birthday – but this year there was no gin-filled evening spent traipsing the streets of Milwaukee.  We turned in pre-midnight knowing we were expected out in the strawberry fields at 8 am.

Today was the first you-pick-‘em weekend for strawberries at Barthel Fruit Farm and we were there.  With the help of Sherry, my mom, her boyfriend John and his son Jack, (and Brandon of course), we filled seven crates with “Summer Dawn” strawberries in just over two hours.

The whole field wafted the juicy fragrance of the berries and their aroma hung in the air around us all day long, changing with each step in the process.  First it was light, sweet and clean as we crouched in the fields and pushed back leaves in search of clusters of the first ripe fruits.  Plenty of tiny white flowers and hard green berries promised that pickers in the coming weeks would too gather sweet bounties.

Our cars soaked up the scent as we transported our goods to Sherry’s for the next steps of stemming, washing, and cutting – which we performed while sitting on her breezy back porch with tall, sweating glasses of ice water at hand.  A couple of hours into prepping the berries, Sherry brought us plates with Italian beef sandwiches, creamy potato salad, and crispy kettle cooked chips.   Thoroughly fortified, I headed into the house to learn to make jam while mom and Brandon soldiered on with berry preparation.

Sherry’s charming, sunny kitchen was shortly glazed with a saccharine vapor as we boiled down the fruit in a thick-bottomed pot, incorporating sugar, pectin, lemon juice and a little butter into our syrupy brew.  Next we ladled the ruby sap into squat quilt-patterned jars, capped and lowered them into a speckled enamel jacuzzi for a few minutes, then removed them to a sheet pan for cooling.  Sherry has always turned her jars upside down to encourage the seal, so that’s what we did.  We repeated the process six times; each batch somehow seemed to get a little easier until all the jars were full.  (bonus: a hearty supply  of leftover berries is now nestled in our freezer for future snacking, smoothies, and all of manner of strawberry desserts!)

Waving and shouting our final thanks out the car window, we headed for home around five o’clock.  The whole project, from plucking the first berry to stashing twelve boxes of 144 jars into the trunk, took just 9 hours, including time out for lunch and a dessert break: a slice of skillet chocolate chip cookie nestled between two scoops of Blue Bunny “I Do! I Do! Wedding Cake.”  (Stupid name, awesome ice cream)

At some point in the day, we decided to dip our spoons into the steaming pot of nearly-finished jam and taste the fruits of our labor.  Oh lordy-pie! First, a wave of pure, clean sugar, curtained by a hint of buttery richness. Then, biting a piece of berry brings fresh, juicy red tartness, and as it slides away – you’re left with candied sunshine lingering on your tongue.  For me it recalled a quintessential taste of childhood and also a new flavor I’ll remember simply as LOVE.

Today’s jam-a-thon was a labor of love.  Together we created something bigger than the sum of its parts – a whole bunch of little jars filled with prettiest shade of red jam you could hope for –something to share with our wedding guests, the ones who’ll be present to witness our marriage, those crazy fools who’ll be dancing around with us on a very epic day in our lives.

Thank you Sherry, Mom, Brandon, John, Jack, and Terry for being part of this day and this project.  You guys made my maiden jam-making voyage a roaring success.

The recipe we used was quite traditional – very similar to this one from the Ball website, with the addition of 3 tablespoons of butter per batch to keep the “foaming” to a minimum and add an unexpected yum factor like only butter can.