Mushroom quinoa burger with herb aioli

I am on a never-ending quest for excellent vegetarian entrees. I've noticed that when I search for meatless meals, most of the results are salads, soups, and other light dishes that wouldn't satisfy the grown man I cook for daily nor put a dent in the caloric needs of a couple of people training for a marathon (January 11 can't come soon enough!). We are meat eaters, but I love the idea of including lots of plant foods, too. Vegetarian meals are budget-friendly and nutrient-dense, so I try to go meatless one or two days each week. Some of our favorite meals (hello, wonderful falafel) happen to be meat-free, and I love adding new vegetarian recipes to my dinner arsenal.

I've found that patties are great ways to bulk up a meal without adding meat. They are versatile, full of flavor, easy to throw together, and actually provide satiety. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy being hungry, so I'm not about to try surviving on salad for the sake of meat avoidance.

These mushroom quinoa burgers are quite tasty: even my husband, a don't-call-it-a-burger-if-there's-no-meat guy, sent me a text to tell me how much he liked them after I packed a couple in his lunch one day. And that herb aioli? Heaven.
It's always exciting to watch food trends. Every year or so, there seems to be a new sweep of products and diets that hit the market and take it by storm. A prime example: quinoa. Until a couple of years ago, all of the people who regularly ate quinoa would probably be able to fit in my living room, and everyone else was like "quin-what?" Today, thanks to the rise in popularity of gluten-free diets and alternative grains, quinoa is a staple in many households.

Quinoa - not actually a grain and instead a member of the chenopod family along with beets and chard - is rich in nutrients, unlike many grains. It is high in manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and folate, and packs 8 grams of protein per cooked cup. There have been few research studies on health benefits of quinoa in humans, but some studies on rats have shown that daily quinoa intake reduces internal inflammation. This isn't surprising given the anti-inflammatory compounds found in quinoa, including phenolic acids and vitamin E.

The outer layer of the quinoa seed contains phytonutrients called saponins. Saponins, while possibly beneficial to health, are quite bitter-tasting, which is why most people choose to rinse quinoa prior to cooking.
Notice the bits of frost on the patties below. Now that it gets dark at 4:30, I had to finish shooting this recipe a day after baking them. A positive note: finding out these babies freeze wonderfully.
Mushroom quinoa burger with herb aioli
Barely adapted from Epicurious
Makes 12 patties

1 pound portabella or cremini mushrooms, stemmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 dates, pitted
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 egg
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
12 hamburger buns, preferably homemade (I used this recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Clean mushrooms by wiping with a damp cloth. Toss with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes until browned. Allow the mushrooms to cool.
  2. Combine garlic, flax meal, parmesan, chickpeas, dates, parsley, egg, tahini, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a food processor. Pulse to combine well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. 
  3. Finely chop the mushrooms and add them to the bowl along with the quinoa and any juices from the mushroom baking sheet. Stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If the mixture seems too wet to form into patties, stir in an extra 1-2 tablespoons of flax meal. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 475F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
  5. Form the mixture into 12 patties, each about 1 inch thick. Arrange on the baking sheet and bake until browned, 15-18 minutes. 
  6. Toast the hamburger buns and place mushroom burgers on the bottom halves. Top with herb aioli (recipe below) and any other fixing you like. I'd recommend red onion and alfalfa sprouts or microgreens. Serve immediately. 

Herb aioli
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes 1 cup

1 garlic clove
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mince the garlic clove and mash into a paste with the edge of a knife. Combine garlic paste, egg yolk, red wine vinegar, mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small food processor and pulse until combined. Run the processor as you slowly add the olive oil to create a thickened emulsion. Add the herbs and pulse to incorporate. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

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