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Kitchen MacGyver: Umami Mushroom Burgers

Mushrooms provide essential nutrients for endurance athletes!

I’ve mentioned this before, but mushrooms provide nutrients that are essential for endurance athletes. Portabella mushrooms have been found to provide more potassium than a banana; shiitakes are an excellent source of B vitamins, six minerals—including iron—and vitamin D. These mushrooms also contain protein as well as a meaty texture, which makes them a great meat substitute. Shiitake mushrooms possess a slightly smoky, umami—the “fifth flavor” in Japanese cooking that is more savory than the other sweet, bitter, salty, sour flavors—taste that, to me, proves more satisfying than some sources of animal protein.

Before I owned a food processor, I used to dice the large amount of mushrooms for this recipe by hand. The mushrooms should be chopped into a very fine dice, like a brunoise. If you have an hour and patience to spare, feel free to try this old-fashioned mise en place preparation.

Umami Mushroom Burgers

2 teaspoons grapeseed oil

2 large shallots, minced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 large Portobella mushroom caps, wiped clean, gills removed (if desired) and chopped

1/2 cup chopped oyster mushrooms

1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped

1/4 cup rehydrated porcini mushrooms, dried and chopped, optional (these can be a little pricey)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons Tamari sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs fresh thyme, de-stemmed

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour (keep more handy to sprinkle into mix if it’s too wet)

1/4 cup toasted, chopped cashews

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts, crushed (put nuts in a sealed ziplock bag and roll a rolling pin or corked bottle of wine over them until crushed)

2 tablespoons Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, if desired

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute shallots and garlic in 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil until shallots are soft, about three minutes. Add all of the chopped mushrooms to pan and cook until mushrooms are lightly caramelized, about five minutes. Add salt, black pepper, tamari, Worcestershire and thyme. Cook until mixture is dry.

Remove skillet from heat and allow to cool. When mixture has cooled, dump it into a large mixing bowl and add flour and cashews. Mix well with clean hands. If mixture looks too wet, add a little more flour and combine. Add cheese, if using, and mix it in. Form mushroom mixture into 3-ounce patties (about the size of your palm), put on a plate and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

In the same large skillet you used to cook the mushrooms, heat 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil over medium heat. Cook mushroom burgers for about five minutes per side, or until lightly browned.

Serve burgers on multi-grain rolls, whole-wheat sandwich thins, or wrapped in large lettuce leaves. These are also delicious topped with avocado slices or roasted red peppers.