Crispy Quinoa Burgers with Gruyère and Caramelized Onions

Photo Copyright © Louise Crosby

According to predictions for food trends in 2014, we’ll be cooking more with heirloom grains such as farro and freekeh, and quinoa will fade into the background, with the oat bran. Apparently we need to move on. Nothing against other wonderful grains, but for many of us quinoa has become a friend, a household word, a staple, like rice. So why abandon it now?  There’s room for everything.

It wasn’t long ago that quinoa was the new super food, a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, high in protein, gluten-free. It contains all of the essential amino acids and is a good source of fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. So impressive is this tiny seed that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization declared 2013 International Year of Quinoa, calling it a food with a high nutritive value, impressive biodiversity and an important role to play in the achievement of food security worldwide.

So today we’re not rejecting farro or freekeh or barley or teff, we’re standing firm for quinoa with these crispy quinoa patties topped with melted Gruyère and caramelized onions, adapted from Food & Wine magazine. The magazine calls them burgers and serves them between two hamburger buns, with mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, relish, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles as suggested condiments. I prefer them without the bread, as a simple patty on a plate, and I’m serving them with charred cherry tomatoes on the side to cut the richness of the cheese and caramelized onions, and to provide a splash of colour. A slice or two of avocado would also be good, as would a scoop of creamy cabbage slaw or a sprightly green salad. Note that I halved the chipotle powder, as I found 1 teaspoon to be too strong and spicy for my liking. But it’s up to you.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these patties, which contain mashed kidney beans, make a tasty and nutritious lunch or dinner. They’re also convenient – the mixture can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, then shaped into patties and fried when hunger strikes.  The patties can also be frozen between layers of parchment in an airtight container for up to one month.

Crispy Quinoa Burgers with Gruyère and Caramelized Onions
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided in half
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1½ cups water
  • One 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup packed sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder, or to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese cut into slices
  • Halved cherry tomatoes
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt, and continue to cook until the onions have caramelized, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the quinoa and water in a small saucepan, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a large bowl mash the kidney beans with your hands, a fork or a potato masher. Mix in the cooked quinoa, grated cheddar, minced onions, garlic, chipotle powder, remaining salt and pepper to taste. Form into 4 (or more) patties.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a well-seasoned cast iron pan or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the quinoa patties and give the pan a shake to make sure the patties don't stick. Cook the patties for about 4 minutes, or until the patties are brown and crispy. Carefully flip the patties over and cook for 2 more minutes.
  5. Top the patties with the Gruyère cheese slices, cover the pan, and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Remove the patties from the pan and keep in a warm place.
  6. Place the cherry tomatoes in the pan, cut side up, and cook for one minute at medium-high heat until slightly charred.
  7. Top each patty with caramelized onion and serve with the cherry tomatoes on the side.


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