Sunday, March 11, 2012

A poorly written recipe for pinto bean and quinoa burgers

My introduction to the veggie burger came my freshman year of college.  It was the fall of 1997, I was away from home (a whole 40 minutes!) and began eating in the school cafeteria (or The Caf, as the cool kids called it).  It was The Caf, in fact, that made me step completely into the realm of vegetarianism.  I had never liked or eaten much meat and now, without a mother worrying about my protein intake, I was free to say good-bye to flesh for good.  Having never been keen on the stuff in the first place, cafeteria "meat" was super easy to give up.  Aside from sampling iguana in Costa Rica (it really does taste like chewy chicken!) and a sad attempt at actual chicken when I was pregnant, I haven't touched the stuff...or missed it.  I am very happy to be meat free.

Although I was quite content to be a vegetarian, 1997 was still a bleak time for my people.  Choices were limited, restaurants were unaccommodating, and people were constantly asking, "How on earth do you get protein?"  By the way, why are people so obsessed with that macro-nutrient??  Tofu and eggplant based dishes were the go to substitutions (oh barf!!!).  And The Caf held very few options for me so I just made due.  (Don't worry, I didn't starve.  I have several photos to prove it.)

 One of the constant options was a veggie burger...a Garden Burger to be exact.  The pioneer to all proceeding veggie burgers, and like most things pioneer, it is a little rough around the edges.  A Garden Burger, in case you have never had one, is slightly bland and its texture can be described as "not too offensive."  I have heard it described as a hockey puck, a rabbit turd, and an assault on the taste buds.  I rarely eat Garden Burgers now, but at the time it was the best substitution around.

Another option in the primitive years of "non-meat burgers" was a Boca Burger.  This burger, unlike the Garden Burger, was trying to taste like meat.  For me, this is the worst.  I don't like meat.  That is why I don't eat it.  So if I wanted something to taste like meat, I would eat meat.  But I do get the audience that Boca is targeting....the forlorn former carnivore.  However, I think Boca missed their mark.  A Boca Burger pretty much tastes like meat mated with raw sewage and gave birth to a barf baby.  Too much??  I didn't think so either.  Oh, and this is the burger that all meat eaters pick out for you at BBQs.  Gastric torture.

The first time I had a veggie burger that I actually enjoyed, nay savored, was at Chili's of all places.  They introduced me to the Spicy Black Bean Burger.  This was not made of twigs and sawdust, it was not trying to taste like meat.  It was flavorful and had a pleasing texture.  At that moment my mind was opened to a whole host of possibilities.  Veggie burger could be delicious!  And from then on I became a veggie burger connoisseur.

Thankfully, things have greatly improved in the veggie burger department.  There are endless options at the grocery store and in restaurants.  I still love spicy black bean burgers (these make great tacos by the way).  Other great choices are Sunburgers (made from sunflower seeds) and Costco has fantastic burgers from Don Lee Farms.  Restaurants are stepping up their game as well.  I recently read this article in the Denver post about the so-called veggie burger renaissance.

One of the burgers mentioned just so happens to be a new favorite of mine.  City O City and Watercrest (same owner) serve an amazing pinto bean and quinoa burger that I may or may not dream about on a nightly basis.  It is spicy, nutty, flavorful, and it also has a great texture.  Can you tell texture is a big thing for me?  The only problem with this burger is the fact that it is located 35 minutes away from my mouth.

So what is a girl to do?  Try to recreate it of course!

And thus began my veggie burger making adventure.  I must also add that I am completely ill equipped to embark on such an adventure due to my utter lack of cooking skills...but I tried all the same.  What follows are "instructions" and the resulting "recipe."

  1. Google "pinto bean and quinoa burger."  Start clicking on all the recipes.  Realize that you don't have all the ingredients for any of the recipes.  Curse yourself for not being a proper cook who stocks her cupboards with common ingredients.
  2. Check your odd collection of spices, most of which were probably left by husband's former roommates.  Google, "do spices expire."  Decide you are in the clear.
  3.  Get frustrated and decide to just throw things together in a bowl.  Things picked: 
    • A can of pinto beans (mashed up)
    • 3/4 cup...or maybe it was a cup of cooked quinoa.  I cooked mine with a veggie bullion cube. 
    • Bread crumbs (amount unknown)
    • Sauteed onions (good choice).  How many?  1/2 cup but more would be good too.
    • Salsa (a couple of spoon fulls)
    • Cumin- because you remember seeing it in most of the recipes.  You have no actual idea what it is or what it tastes like or how it got into your house.  Google "do spices expire" once more.  Add it anyway.  
    • Garlic Pepper, because it is delicious.
    • Crushed red peppers.  Just go ahead and add too much.
  4. Mix it all together and form a patty.  
  5. Cook with some olive oil in a pan.
  6. Taste it and decide to add more spices.  Add too much.
  7. Decide that you should add cheese to your patties (good choice).  How much?  Who knows?
  8. Change up the cooking arrangement and bake them at 350.....then change it to 400.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until you get bored with waiting....or they are browning.
  9. Give them a taste.  Pretty good, albeit a little spicy.  Do they taste like City O City's burger? Nope, not even a little.  But are they still good?  Yes.
  10. Top with guac and put it on a bun.  Dinner is you.  No one else in your house will touch that has something called quinoa in it for heaven's sake.
  11. Finally convince husband to taste it.  He says that it is okay, but missing something.  You ask him "what?"  He thinks and smiles and you say "meat" before he can.  
The Burgers before they went in the oven
The end result

Overall, I think they turned out great.  One of the beautiful things about veggie burgers is that you can just throw stuff together.  I think I would pump these up with some corn, zucchini, maybe even chopped jalepenos.  But overall, I would recommend googling a recipe since my instructions pretty much suck!  Give them a go....and don't listen to my husband because they don't need any meat!

Thoughts on veggie burgers?  Yea or nay?