I’ve had it with winter in Chicago!
I know I promised, no resolved, that I was going to embrace it with optimism. I know I even went so far to create an action plan of things I could do to not just tolerate, but love it. And I swear I tried, I really did. I’ve been taking on (though not always completing) projects around the home. I’ve been reading really good books and cooking fantastic new things, even perfecting my meat curing skills on another round of homemade bacon. And for awhile I was actually convinced that I had winter beat, that I could weather any storm and be all the better for it.
But now that January is long gone, February is in the rear view mirror and March is in progress, I’m officially done. So much so that in my mind, I like to believe that summer is almost here. Forget spring even. I’m ready for 72 and sunny.
The culprit of my shifted feelings is an unlikely one – condo shopping. You see amid my many (and probably I’m learning too many) requirements is a strong desire for some good outdoor space, the kind ripe for urban gardening, weekend entertaining, and perhaps if I’m feeling truly wacky, an urban chicken coup. Because of this, my many open houses and appointments have lead to me touring a great many backyards, roof decks, patios and balconies. And every time, I find myself slipping into fantasy land, imagining what my life would be like there to see if we’re a fit. So I’ve been throwing a lot of imaginary cookouts lately and in doing so have cultivated and unbelievably strong longing for all the trappings of warmer weather, not just for outdoor gatherings, but for lazy afternoons spent reading in the sunshine and weekly trips to the farmers’ market.
And it’s influencing my cooking. It first showed up in my Turkey Dried Cherry Pasta Salad, so picnic appropriate. And now it’s reflected in today’s recipe – Mushroom Burgers.
I suppose you can have burgers anytime of year (and I do) but I know I cannot be alone in thinking they taste best with a generous dose of sunshine and a light, warm breeze.
This is my recipe for a tried and true veggie burger. In my typical spirit of experimentation and creativity I feel I should branch out, but this recipe keeps bringing me back. With their plump, meaty quality mushrooms make the perfect base and don’t worry if some of the other ingredients – pecans, Hoisin, and jalapenos – sound like odd bedfellows. Trust me when I say they all sing beautifully together. The Hoisin adds depth and savoriness and the jalapenos give great flavor with only the very mildest of heats. All in all they are so incredibly delicious and a good basic veggie burger in the sense that it pairs well with so many toppings. I like mine topped with a homemade version of the Big Mac sauce straight out of Fast Food Fix, but these are universal enough to pair well with a bevy of fixings – avocado, pickled onion, a fried egg, you name it! That said, if you’ve never made a homemade veggie burger before, know that these crumble a bit more than the commercial varieties. I’ve considered adding in a bit of vital wheat gluten or an egg to see if that does the trick, but honestly the flavor and texture of these is so divine I don’t mind.
But before you rush off and make these I have a couple of tips to ensure success. First, I like to include a mixture of mushrooms to increase depth of flavor. Oven I’ll supplement some more expensive varieties that are heavy on flavor with a less expensive variety, like baby bellas. It helps to keep cost in check while keeping things delicious.
And should you have trouble shaping the patties just so. I like to use an english muffin ring.
Method will still be similar to the below but instead you’ll want to use a skillet over medium heat that has been lightly coated with cooking spray in place of grilling or broiling. Just coat the inside of the ring with cooking spray and press the veggie burger mixture inside and proceed with the cooking instructions. I find it yields even, oh so perfectly shaped burgers.
Adapted from Vegetarian Burgers
Yields 6 burgers
-1 tablespoon canola oil
-1 cup diced onion
-1 tablespoon minced garlic
-1 jalapeno, cored, seeded, and chopped (or to taste)
-1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
-1 pound your choice of fresh mushrooms, sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, tough stems removed if necessary (I used a combination of baby bella mushrooms and black trumpet mushrooms)
-2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
-1 cup cooked brown rice
-¼ cup pecans, toasted and ground to a coarse powder
-1 ½ cups whole wheat panko bread crumbs
-Salt, to taste (Ideally truffle salt if you have it)
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the jalapeno, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Reduce heat. Cover and cool until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (The vegetables will cook in their own liquid. Uncover occasionally and check to see if the mixture is sticking. If so, stir up to a tablespoon of water.) With a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables and place them in a large bowl leaving the vegetable juices in the pan.
Add the hoisin sauce and mix well. Reduce sauce remaining in the skillet by placing over medium heat. Cook uncovered, stirring often, until sauce is very thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour sauce over the onion-mushroom mixture.
Place onion mushroom mixture and rice in a food processor. Pulse on and off several times until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Transfer to a large bowl and add the ground pecans and 1 1/4 cups of the bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt. Mix well with a large spoon or, even better, with your hands, until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Form into patties 3 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick, mixing in extra bread crumbs if the patties don’t hold their shape. They will be delicate, so handle them gently.
Prepare a grill or preheat the broiler. Place the patties on a a vegetable grid. If broiling, place the patties on a broiler pan or large cookie sheet lined with a lightly oiled piece of aluminum foil. Grill or broil 3 to 5 inches from the heat, 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. (When one side is done, turn the patties to the other side with a spatula.) Check often to prevent burning.