To celebrate the Fourth of July, Chef Sadhana and I set out to work on developing a burger special for the weekend! The kitchen already had a recipe that they had used in the past for a mushroom pesto burger, so we started with that in mind and set off to build a dish.
The first thing I did was try out making a batch of the mushroom pesto burger to make sure the recipe would turn out well. Sadhana was also planning on using the recipe for an upcoming cooking class, so she wanted me to make sure it was easy to follow, too. It started out with a walnut pesto, which included basil, walnuts, nutritional yeast, chickpea miso, olive oil, and salt. I then sauteed a blend of diced portobello and crimini mushrooms, a jalapeño (which I forgot to deseed the first time around–oops!), and a yellow onion. Next up, the mushroom/onion blend, pesto, oats, and cooked brown rice went in the food processor to start the base for the burgers. Sundried tomatoes, chopped walnuts, hemp seeds, and brown rice flour got folded in until the consistency was just right. Due to the fact that I didn’t deseed the jalapeño, the burger batter was spiiiiiicy. Even Sadhana, who has a much higher spice tolerance than I, agreed! So we added a bunch more nutritional yeast and brown rice the first time around to balance it out. One of the perks of working in a vegan kitchen is that you can pretty much taste almost anything before it goes in the oven!
Up until now, the normal burger on the menu (made from a tempeh and bean base) has been served on a housemade english muffin, but they also wanted a new whole wheat bun to use, so next up we tried out a small batch of a recipe to see if it would be good. It was pretty simple: whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, warm water, salt, olive oil.
It was so much fun getting to punch down the bread after it had risen, and feeling all of the air pockets dissipate and deflate beneath my fingers. Plus it smelled doughy and delicious, with that iconic yeasty smell that goes along with homemade bread. I have a bread machine at home and had never actually done all of the work from scratch myself, so getting to learn how to make it was a treat!
In order to form the little dough balls for the buns, we had to measure them out (4.1 ounces on the scale, which brings back memories from the pupusa-making days!), and then do this neat action where we folded them in on themselves, until they became these compact little buns with air kind of tucked in the middle. Of course, lots of bun and dough ball puns were made in the process.
Once the buns were done baking, it was time to put together the burger! First came the patty…
Then the tomatoes and grilled red onion (my favorite)…
Avocado (my other favorite)…
And a spread of housemade mustard and some toothpicks to hold this beast together!
Sadhana had also mentioned that, in addition to the housemade pickles she would be making for the dish (beautiful pickled cauliflower, cucumbers, and carrots), they also wanted to do a new take on their potato salad for the special. I was trying to think of what would go well with pesto, and my mind went to a summery caprese salad (which is traditionally basil, mozzarella, tomato and olive oil). So I suggested a caprese potato salad, complete with potatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction, and my idea actually ended up making it on to the final dish we served! Definitely a proud moment.
The final potato salad (which Sadhana and I shaped based on my original idea) had all of the ingredients I mentioned above, in addition to chives and a dressing made from olive oil, golden balsamic vinegar, shallots, white pepper, and salt.
Finally, it was time to plate the dish for Sid and Jeff to try so that they could approve it. I particularly held my breath when they tried the potato salad, but they loved it, as did I when I got to try the whole dish later on that weekend (we only tasted different components as we went along).
Et voila! The final product. The bun was soft and pillowy, as it should be, but with a nutty undertone from the whole wheat flour. The burger’s exterior crisped up wonderfully in the oven, but left the interior chewy and soft, with a pop of pesto and crunch from the chopped walnuts. The mustard added some nice zing in there, too, and the creaminess from the avocado and acidity of the tomatoes were perfect. And the smoky grilled onion…just SO GOOD.
This is definitely something I plan on recreating at home, and it will also be served on Wednesdays for the month of July! If you’re in the area or planning on a visit, I would definitely recommend ordering this dish. We went through them like crazy on the Fourth, and for good reason!
This article was written by monica