I decided then and there after a cursory squint at a new recipe, that I was going to eat a burger. Only after purchasing the ingredients and making the patties did I pause long enough to realize that this demarcated a first meal of sorts. Times when I considered the various possibilities for a hypothetical euphemistic last meal, I have inevitably looked towards foods which throw all caution to the wind. Foods of extreme expense, from hard to reach locations, which create a sensatory experience that touches on the wonders of being alive. First meals seem to be altogether another kind of animal born of innocence, symbolic observances tinged with hopeful glad tidings. Certainly they must stand on different territory than anything associated with longing and imminent death. But too late for all that, I had unconsciously selected a non-symbolic burger and suddenly the day was upon me- the first day of spring, my first colonoscopy, and the subsequent need to break the fast.
Going a little deeper I shouldn’t be all that surprised with my choice. After all I still look upon my days working at Burger King with a special gush of fondness. As gatekeeper to the French fry world I felt that I held an important position which deserved to be amply rewarded at break time when I would lower my mantle of responsibility and just go cow crazy. More significant than maintaining order at the salad bar or dispensing orders at neck breaking pace, learning the ins and outs of having it your way opened my eyes to a permissive world of individual taste with its rousing provocation for variation. Dare I add that tangentially I began to understand a little bit about propriety as well? There is actually time and appropriate place for a Whopper with cheese, extra everything minus the meat. So while initially I may have embarked upon this life with some hard fast rules about hamburger, fillings and the importance of a good seeded bun my ideas have expanded somewhat. Move over extra pickle; clear the way ketchup, git along cheddar and bacon. While I still crave a good burger, it is now more often than not stuffed with wholesome and considerate sunflower seeds, whole grains and even some carrots too.
But as much as I relish the veggie burger and rely upon them with more regularity than I care to admit, I felt this nagging inner voice dissatisfied with my rather mundane choice. Had I really fasted for just about two whole days in which I salivated over everything that practically moved, to break the fast which happened to coincidentally fall upon the first day of spring and also preceded Good Friday, the End before the Great Beginning… with a veggie burger?
Well yes I did, and satisfyingly so. My mind drifted back to the catchy Have it Your Way jingle and I couldn’t help feeling a little foolish falling for the inducement to always want something more. And this is often how I go about chasing the world: a pluck of color, a splash of flavor, a galloping hunger to taste something new and alive. Sometimes it happens too that one stops tasting and seeing, and all difference becomes strangely the same. And the real asking and meeting is on the razor’s edge between end and beginning.
Mushroom Quinoa Burger makes about 8 patties: adapted from Epicurious.
1/3 C quinoa
2/3 C water
1 small red pepper chopped fine
1 small onion chopped fine
10 oz. chopped mushroom of choice
1 can of chickpeas, liquid drained
4 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
½ C dried bread crumbs
1/3 C oatmeal
6 porcini mushrooms ground into a powder with spice grinder
1 tsp. toasted ground cumin
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper
1 C dried bread crumbs
½ C mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Chipotle Tabasco
2 tsp. ketchup
Directions: Put quinoa and water in a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes until the grain is translucent and cooked through. Wipe mushrooms clean and remove the stem end (I usually only chop off the very end unless it is apparent that the stem is too tough to eat) and quickly blitz in a food processor. Heat up fry pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon or so of oil. Add pepper, onions, and mushrooms along with a touch of salt. Fry vegetable mixture up until onions sweat and mushrooms give off their moisture, about 8-10 minutes. Add mixture to a medium sized bowl along with the cooled quinoa. Meanwhile drain the chickpeas and blitz in a food processor until more pasty than chunky. Stop before the chickpeas are completely smooth. Add this bean mixture to the vegetables. Add the cilantro, bread crumbs, oatmeal, porcini powder, cumin, nutritional yeast, egg, and salt and pepper. Mix through. Set up two plates, one scattered with the remaining cup of bread crumbs and the other to receive. Make approximately ½ inch thick, 3 inch wide patties and coat on all sides with the crumbs. Allow them to rest on the plate and cover with wrap before placing in the refrigerator overnight to firm up. To make the chipotle mayonnaise, mix together the mayo, Tabasco, and the ketchup. When ready to eat, heat up a good heavy weight pan or non stick pan to medium high and add a few tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Carefully load up the burgers and cook until golden on one side before flipping and browning the other. I am sorry to say that I don’t quite remember the time involved. Epicurious recipe says about 4 minutes total, but I recall more than that for each side. I trust you will cook it just right! I will say that I cooked my burgers this way and also with the Forman Grill, and hands down the FG was my favorite creating a great crust. Either way this is a great tasting burger with or without all the fixings wherever you are beginning, middle, or end.