Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baked Quinoa Burgers

Last week I said that my veggie burger obsession was almost to an end, and I only had one more recipe that I was ready to share. As it turns out, I was wrong. I was inspired to make one more veggie burger this past weekend and even though it retroactively made me a bit of a liar, I have zero regrets that I made these delicious quinoa burgers. I absolutely love quinoa for its flavor, texture, versalitility, and because it is a complete protein and it makes frequent appearances in my meals. I've made lots of quinoa pilafs and salads, both hot and cold, and I love quinoa's ability to harmoniously coexist with both savory flavors and slightly sweet ones. And as it turns out, quinoa makes an absolutely fantastic burger as well. One of the most difficult parts of creating a successful veggie or grain burger is keeping it from falling apart, and although these are fairly wet burgers, they hold together quite well while still maintaining some texture. A very simple creation, the aroma of these burgers is still inticing enough to warrant unsolicited praises of my lunch at work, the simple seasoning combination of garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper mingling happily with the spinach and quinoa. Although I chose to eat these as a burger, they would also be delicious as an appetizer (in smaller portions), side dish, or salad topping.

One of the key elements to success when cooking quinoa is making sure to rinse it well before cooking. Quinoa is naturally coated in saponins, which will give the grain a soapy taste if not removed, and can turn people off to this otherwise spectacular grain. Once you get comfortable with this nutritious, quick-cooking grain, try substituting it anywhere you would ordinarily have rice, couscous, or maybe even pasta. Whether as part of a burger, main dish or side this amazing grain is a pantry staple and one I hope will find a treasured place in your kitchen, as it has in mine.

Baked Quinoa Burgers
from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
makes six 4-inch burgers

1 cup quinoa
5 ounces spinach, fresh or frozen
1 small shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes or freshly grated nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Bring the quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and add a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the spinach: If using fresh spinach, steam it for 3 to 4 minutes over an inch of simmering water or blanch it for 30 seconds in a pot of boiling salted water. Transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking. Squeeze dry and finely chop. If using frozen spinach, allow it to thaw then squeeze dry.

4. Combine the cooked quinoa and spinach with the shallot, garlic, egg, flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and red pepper or nutmeg. Shape into 6 patties and place on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and firm.

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