Confession: I am not a vegetarian. Here’s why: Often, when I eat vegetarian meals I feel something is missing. It’s not meat, exactly—rather, it’s some deep satisfaction. I feel satisfied more easily when I eat a big, juicy burger than when I have an equally delicious but less satisfying quinoa salad.
Even as I write, it strikes me that the language I use to describe those two meals is different. I eat the burger. I have the quinoa. One is carnal action. The other is gentle possession. For me, I also confess, there is real satisfaction in carnal action.
But I like vegetarian food and the idea of eating vegetarian once in a while. So how do I bring that deep satisfaction to my meatless Mondays? How do I get all carnal on that quinoa? The obvious answer is to make it into a burger.
My favorite beef burger comes from Shake Shack, Danny Meyer's New York–based (now worldwide), sustainably minded burger joint. The double ShackBurger is my ideal burger: two smallish patties with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and onion. The patties, each coated with cheese, bring a higher proportion of melting surface area. It’s real, real satisfying.
So I thought I’d give it a shot with quinoa. Small patties, each topped with melted cheddar and fixin’s. And it totally works! This is, bar none, the most satisfying veggie burger I’ve tasted. (Note the verb: taste, a carnal yet sophisticated and nuanced sense.) The quinoa is just held together with egg, making it tender yet somehow meaty and real, real satisfying.
Quinoa Stack Attack
1 cup quinoa
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices cheddar cheese
4 hamburger buns
Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, and ketchup
Whisk the quinoa into a medium pot of boiling salted water, and cook until very tender and the grains have burst, about 15 minutes. Drain the quinoa in a sieve, and cool to warm.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, coriander, cumin, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in the quinoa.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until hot. Place half the batter, in 4 (1/2 cup) measures, in the skillet, pressing each into a patty. Brown the patties, turning once, until golden, about 6 minutes each side. Repeat with the remaining batter and oil. Transfer the patties to paper towels to drain.
Preheat the broiler.
Drape 1 cheese slice over each patty, and place on a baking sheet. Broil patties until the cheese is melted, then build burgers with the buns, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
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