Burgers and Fries, Please

The best part of my week came when Abbie announced that she wanted to have a burger and fries for dinner.

“At last!” I thought with such glee. “She’s forsaking being a vegetarian and I’ll finally get to make food for the both of us!”

They say a sucker is born every minute… well it was totally that minute for me. You see, for months I’ve been explaining to my dearest Abigail that I had once spent an entire summer experimenting with meatless burgers as part of a bet between my friend Marty and I. Day after day, week after week, recipe after recipe for more vegetarian burgers than you could shake a stick at as I tried my absolute best to master the ‘secret’ art of meatless burgers. I wanted them to be so good that anyone who tasted them would be unable to tell that they lacked meat. I, most predictably, completely failed. Personally, I feel that I came close on a few occasions, but at the end of the day it was the texture that ruined everything. Looking back at that summer now, I feel slightly embarrassed. However, the shameful story of my total failure was misconstrued by my dear Abigail as “Yes, I am awesome at making vegetarian burgers.” And thus the fun of this cooking adventure begins.

Not being one to ever forget a failure, I knuckled down and began my research… and by research I mean that I was casually browsing recipes on my phone between episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Netflix. My heart sank as every single recipe that I found looked exactly like every other recipe I’d ever tried and failed at until finally I stumbled across one that was different, that was new to me. One that had black beans and quinoa.
“Why on earth are they using quinoa?! It’s so gritty! Waaaaaaaaaaaaait a second. Gritty?! That’s it! THAT IS MY MISSING TEXTURE!!” My heart soared for just a moment. Dare I believe that adding what is in my eyes sand to black beans would provide the missing texture? I’d been led astray by these thoughts before, having read so many reviews of recipes promising me that you couldn’t tell the difference only to end up with something that was bland, textureless and generally awful.

As I contemplated these thoughts I became horribly aware of the time. Abbie would be home soon and hungry. Realizing that I no longer had any time to question or do further ‘research’ I sprang forth into the kitchen to give the vegetarian burger one last shot, to finally best my culinary ‘white whale’.

The original recipe I used is from Best Recipes Magazine, but I omitted the carrots, Worcestershire, cilantro…  Okay, pretty much half the recipe.

Black Bean & Quinoa Burgers (recipe credit to Best Recipes Mag)
1 1/2 cups black beans

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
1/3 cup carrot, chopped 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax seed and 3 tablespoons warm water)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire, vegan
1/4 teaspoon cumin
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
1/2 cup panko, gluten free

Also because I’m notoriously bad with garlic presses I use this amazing pre-diced garlic that comes in a little glass jar. A few notes though. Add a tad more olive oil/cooking spray/vegetable oil than you think you might need. I only suggest this because I noticed that either because I had the heat up too high or the burgers absorbed it all, I constantly had to add more oil to keep them from sticking and scorching. Also I don’t recommend making more than one at a time, simply because they’re just not as sturdy as a regular burger. That could be because I omitted a few things or simply didn’t cook them long enough. Also I really do suggest treating this like a normal burger in the regards of condiments. But there I go getting ahead of myself…

Luckily I finished creating this, what I assumed was a monstrosity, just as Abigail walked in the door. As I prepped the burger I could again feel the tension building. During my mad dash to have these done by the time she got home I never had a moment to stop and taste or fine tune the seasonings. Was she going to like these? Had I finally slain my white whale? As she sat down to take her first bite time seemed to stop. Normally, because she’s the worst vegetarian ever, Abbie stares at my burgers with intense longing; but in this moment the roles were totally reversed. As she took that first bite I sat, quite literally, on the edge of my seat trying to stamp down my desire to leap over the table and climb into her head just to experience her reaction. Luckily for her, I was quickly rewarded when her eyes went big. This was it! That moment was here!

“These are delicious! The texture reminds me of real meat” she muttered through the burger as she went to take another bite.

Shock and awe overwhelmed me. No way; I thought. She had to be kidding. I was so full of skepticism that I actually reached across the table and claimed one of these ‘magical’ burgers for myself. Without thinking I simply ripped apart the ‘burger’ with a fork and popped part of it into my mouth only to have my skepticism proven most gloriously wrong.

I had done it! I finally made a vegetarian burger that wasn’t bland, wasn’t boring and had texture! It was even a little juicy! Without thinking I, like so many thousands of people before me, threw my hands into the air in victory! I heard “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly echoing in my head as I made a victory lap around the kitchen while Abbie stared at me as though I’d lost my mind, and rightfully so. I mean let’s be honest. If your significant other took a bite of a burger and took a victory lap around the kitchen singing that song, you’d think they were crazy too. The rest of the meal was without adventure.
A last note: I haven’t taken one of these burgers to Marty yet, but when I do, I will finally be free of this nagging bet in my head. Free to fly.

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