Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

By Nick Roumel 

Snicker snicker. It amuses me to no end how people give “meat” names to vegetarian food. Often with cutesy spellings, like “chikin” or “fakin’ bacon.” The most prevalent of these is “burger,” to appease non-meat eaters during outdoor cookout time, and probably more appetizing than “patty” or “puck.” 

Some vegetarian dishes and restaurants boast more clever monikers. A few are actually real, while others exist only in the imagination of the punster. (Much like my father passing on urban legends, I will repeat the names without verification, simply because they amuse me.) 
Like the “Tempeh Tantrum” veggie burger. The “Soy Luck Club” restaurant. My favorite, “Seitan’s Disciples,” which is probably too racy to be real, especially in the Bible Belt. “Holy Shiitake,” which I must primly point out is five syllables in total.
Jokes aside, vegetarian burgers have come a long way from the days of the frozen, tasteless soy patties as the only option. Many are bright, colorful medleys of flavor, with both soy and gluten free variations. And the day will come, if it hasn’t already, when the vegetarians will receive envious looks from their fellow diners, morosely eating plain hamburger.
I found this recipe for my daughter who is a vegan and can’t eat soy. (So she is not one of Seitan’s Disciples.) It’s from Vegetarian Times and not too difficult. The only change I made was to add a sweet potato. I’ll call this one middle of the road, since it has terrific healthy ingredients, but still seeks to mimic a traditional hamburger’s look and taste.
If you haven’t cooked with quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) before, it’s a grain, first cultivated in South American, that has become quite prevalent in the U.S., and is very easy to cook —if you can get past its decidedly filet mignon price.
 
Black Bean Quinoa Burgers
Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa
 
1 small onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
 
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped (1/4 cup)
 
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, or 1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
 
1 sweet potato
 
2 cloves garlic, mined (2 teaspoons)
 
2 teaspoons dried steak seasoning (or any seasoning mix)
 
8 whole grain hamburger buns
 
Directions
1. Stir together quinoa and 1 1/4 cups water in small saucepan, and season with salt, if desired. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. (You should have 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.)
 
2. Peel and cube the sweet potato. Boil in salted water about 12-14 minutes until tender, then roughly mash. Set aside.
 
3. Meanwhile, place onion and sun-dried tomatoes in medium nonstick skillet, and cook over medium heat. The oil left on tomatoes should be enough to saute the onions; if not, add some olive oil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until onion has softened. 
 
4. Stir in half the black beans, garlic, steak seasoning, and 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
 
5. Transfer the bean-onion mixture to food processor, add half cooked quinoa and half the cooked sweet potato, and process until smooth. 
 
6. Transfer to bowl, and stir in remaining quinoa, black beans, and sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper and cool.
 
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape bean mixture into 8 patties (1/2 cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or more, until patties are crisp on top. Flip patties with spatula and bake at least 10 more minutes or until both sides are crisp and brown. 
 
8. Serve on buns with condiments of your choice. May freeze and reheat.
 
As Bart Simpson would say — don’t have a cow, man.
 
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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