by Sarah on June 29, 2010 · 5 comments

I really should have learned my lesson after last time…but you know how stubborn I can be in the kitchen.

I had received a phone call last weekend (or maybe two weekends ago?) from my dear friend Elizabeth in Charlottesville. After catching up on the move, she informed she was in the process of recreating the quinoa veggie burgers from a local restaurant, Boylan Heights. She had found the recipe online, and, although it was quite a laborious process, and she had made some alterations (her husband, J.W., follows the “Pember Method” of cooking, in that ‘as-written’ is never good enough), but she said she had deliciously high hopes for the final product.

Needless to say, I immediately added the “Boylan Heights Burger” to the “recipes to try” electronic Post-It on my desktop. I always love a good veggie burger, and that one was especially yum-tastic. [You might remember that my foodie blogger friends in Cville and I had met up at Boylan Heights before I moved, and I had been extremely covetous of their veggie burgers…]

Yesterday seemed like a good day for a little culinary experiment. [Although, in Sarah-Land, when is it not a good day for a little culinary experiment?] The recipe for the burger looked great, but I had to make it my own! :)

I have had many failed experiments before, like that time I tried to make crepes, but I am the Queen of Spontaneous Reinvention, and love to turn things around in the kitchen…some might say I thrive on making lemons out of lemonade, to use the old adage. In this case, I made meat(less)loaf out of ham(less)burgers.*

*Not to be confused with homeless burgers [noun]: the last burger on the grill that everyone wants but is too polite to eat, causing choruses of “No, you take it. I insist,” until finally the burger is either divided up or left behind for potential leftover usage.

I started with some dry quinoa (from the bulk bins of course!), which is one of the most amazing grains in the world, due to its protein punch of health benefits. [For more on that, check out my post here. I would quote myself, but that was one of my finer days of blogging, so you should probably just go back and read it.]
I took 1/2 cup of dried quinoa, put it into a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, and boiled away until the quinoa was cooked.
You can tell it is done because there will be little translucent ringlets spiraling off of the grain like a beautiful Shirley Temple ‘do. [Singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and tap dancing while cooking are totally optional.]Meanwhile, you can dice up some red bell pepper, onion, zucchini, and yellow summer squash (1/4 cup of each).
You’ll also need 1/4 cup of chopped sundried tomatoes. Since I no longer have access to the soft, pliable, and not packed in anything ones from Cville Market, I bought these ones that were packed in oil, which I rinsed prior to chopping.Corn was also a requisite ingredient, and I almost bought a package of frozen, and then remembered that corn was in season and supercheap, so why not use fresh? [This corn was amazing. Really fresh corn is deliciously sweet and tasty without needing to being cooked at all, and I pretty much wanted to just gnaw at this like a mouse. I satisfied this desire by using the leftover kernels in a salad for dinner.]
The original recipe called for black and white beans, but since I am turning into a Texan, my new natural tendencies lean towards Tex-Mex-ing everything, so I went with black beans and pintos. [You could use all of one or the other, as you will be left with lots of leftovers…]
I rinsed and drained them of course…
I added 1/2 cup to the bowl, as I was playing around with ingredient proportion adjustment. [Elizabeth had warned me that the recipe, as written, made an insane amount of burgers.]
I mashed them up a little bit, but not too much, as I love texture in my burgers.
I added the cooled, cooked quinoa and blended that all together with my fork.
I sauteed the veggies (minus the spinach, corn, and tomatoes) in a little cooking spray, just until tender-crisp…
…then added those to the mix.
I cooked 1 cup of chopped spinach over medium heat until wilted…
…and into the bowl it went!
Next, I added the sundried tomatoes and the corn, which I had sliced off of the cob.
Spice time! I used black pepper, garlic powder…and, going back to that “she’s turning into a Texan” mentality of “nothing is good without a kick of heat,” some crushed red pepper. Oh, and cumin, because everything is pepper with cumin.
I was then faced with a dilemma. The original recipe called for a ton of Ritz crackers, which I totally could have bought and processed as they said, and would have given the whole thing a nice buttery flavor and helped it hold together. [Speaking of Ritz crackers, if you use them as a topping for macaroni and cheese, your life might change.] But I had something better in mind…
That’s right…Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato chips. Hey, they’re crackers, too!
I also could have taken out the food processor as recommended, but I thought I’d give that bad boy a day off for once. So I went with the old fashioned route and crushed them by hand in a Ziploc. (Although, to be fair, in olden times they wouldn’t have had Ziploc bags and probably would have just smashed them directly in a bowl or on a tree stump or in a mortar and pestle or something.) You could use any tortilla chip or cracker though…or plain bread crumbs.
After I stirred that together, I started to smush ‘n mush the mixture…and I was very wary of its ability to hold itself together. [Like a small child throwing a temper tantrum…or myself when stuck in traffic…I wanted to give it a little knock on the head and say, “Get yourself together!”]
I managed to form patties by creating balls of the blend and using my palm to mash them into ’rounds’ directly on the plate.
The recipe next called for a coating of almond flour blended with all purpose flour. When I had spoken with Elizabeth about the recipe, she had bewailed the difficulty of finding almond flour in Charlottesville, but we had joked that in Austin they probably sold it in gas stations, right next to the chia seeds and wheat germ. [Not true, but it was easy enough to find almond meal in a bulk bin. Actually, it was bulk barrel.]
I mixed an equal amount of almond meal and whole wheat flour, and coated those burgers with a very delicate hand, so as to try and hold them together.
I then seared them in a pan and broiled them, having mixed results and maintaining their original shape.
The flavor was SO SO SO SO SO SO good though, that I refused to give up. I didn’t want to start over completely, however, like I did with the also-delicious Masala Meatless Muffin Loaves, so I took the “cooked” burgers and mashed them up in the original bowl, this time adding 2 egg whites.
And I turned it into a loaf! [Loaf is such a funny word, by the way. Just an observation.]
I baked it for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

The loaf did hold together pretty well, but you will end up with some crumblies on the bottom of the pan. However, as my roommate said, “I don’t care what it looks like, as long as it tastes good.”
And, as judged by the amount of ‘dough’ and bottom-of-the-pan crumblies I consumed….it does taste pretty darn good.

If you try it, let me know how you may have altered it for a more successful composition! I am so good with flavor….but I think I should just give up on the homemade veggie burger quest and just buy some at the store. :)


Spicy Quinoa Loaf

[Adapted from Boylan Heights‘ Quinoa Veggie Burgers]
(Serves 4)

1 1/4 c. cooked quinoa (1/2 c. dry)
3/4 c. black or pinto beans (or a combination)
1/4 c. finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 c. finely diced onion
1/4 c. finely diced zucchini
1/4 c. finely diced yellow summer squash
1 c loosely packed spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. chopped sundried tomatoes, rinsed if packed in oil
1/4 c. corn
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed into 1/2 c. crumbs (may substitute bread crumbs)
2 egg whites

1. If necessary, cook quinoa (1/2 c. dry quinoa in 1 c. water).
2. In a medium-to-large mixing bowl, smash the beans with a fork. [Don’t worry about getting them all, as a little texture is a good thing!]
3. Add the cooked quinoa to the beans; stir to combine.
4. Saute the bell pepper, onion, zucchini, and squash in a little olive oil or cooking spray, just until tender-crisp. Add to the bowl.
5. Using the same small saute pan, cook the spinach leaves over medium heat until wilted. Add them to the mix.
6. Stir in spices and chip/cracker/bread crumbs.
7. Add egg whites and combine well.
8. Put mixture into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

shesgoingthedistance June 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm

omg that sounds amazing!! I looove quinoa :)


Anonymous June 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Pember! You did it! If you ever decide to go for the burgers again, my thoughts on getting them to hold together are 1)double the amount of "white bean paste" they call for AND 2)Add some almond flour to the mixture. Love you!


Cara June 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Mmm need to try these soon. I got a huge bag of quinoa from costco and havent used it yet….


mangocheeks June 29, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Wowee – you have shown me that quinoa can be so veratile. I had actually given up on it, finding it a little dull, but you've actually persuaded me to give it another go.

Thank you so much for that. Soemtimes you need someone elses perspective and i am glad I came across you blog.


molly July 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

i'm a recent quinoa-convert (only eaten it from TJ's/at a restaurant, never made it myself) but there is a big box of it in my pantry now that stares me down every time get something out of there.

i think this is the PERFECT use of a big box of quinoa- i just hope i can get dan to like it too! thanks!


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