Seasonal Chef: Who’s Got Thyme for Tasty Quinoa Burgers?


Thyme is one of my favorite herbs to cook with. It’s an aromatic herb, generally purchased in little bundles. The tiny leaves found on the thin woody stem are typically stripped off and thrown into dishes whole or finely chopped. The whole spring can also be used in slow cooking foods like stews and soups, or baked chickens. I almost always have a fresh bunch ready to use. When I get the bunch home I rinse off the leaves, trim the bottom and into a small glass of water. It’s placed next to the rest of my fresh herbs in one of the ‘fridge drawers. I’ve actually had bunches last me nearly 2 weeks! This week I wondered how I could incorporate thyme into tasty quinoa burgers?

Like most herbs thyme can be found in the dry version as well. It’s roots stretch to the Mediterranean and properties of thyme include it being antibacterial and as an anti-oxident. It’s also a source of Vitamin K, Manganese and Iron. Thyme pairs well with many ingredients: beets, lentils, mushrooms and a whole host of proteins such as beef, chicken and pork. It’s incredibly versatile as I mentioned, used dry or fresh, whole or minced. It’s mildly herbaceous flavor enhances almost everything its combined with.

Chia Seeds and Red Quinoa

I noticed a box of  red quinoa on the shelf and got to thinking about making a burger. I like the Ancient Harvest brand. It’s already pre-washed, so it’s ready to cook, taking only about 15 minutes. About the same amount of time to cook rice, and so much better for you! Nutritionally it just doesn’t get any better: quinoa is low on the glycemic index, non-acidic, low in calories and (very low) fat, no cholesterol and high in protein. It’s a super alternative for everyone, including the vegetarian, vegan and celiac diets.

Soaking Chia Seeds

I recently started using Chia Seeds in place of flax seeds. They don’t have to be ground up to release their awesome benefits. Plus, I think as an egg substitute they are a bit better, since they get thicker when soaked. They are jam packed with all sorts of nutritional value, none the least if which is Protein and Omega-3s. Plus be cause they swell when hydrated they leave you feeling more full, so you end up eating less. We regularly sprinkle them on salads and yogurt and decided to try to incorporate them into this burger.

Shiitake Mushroom and Unsalted Mixed Nuts

As I usually do, I started grabbing things from the cabinet and ‘fridge. My link was going to be the thyme, and what better vegetable to pair with it is mushroom? Mushrooms lend a great “meaty” taste to burgers, but I was looking for mildness – so shiitakes were my ticket. I also thought it might be cool to have a little texture, so I reached for the nuts. I always have a container of unsalted mixed nuts in the cabinet. They are Larry’s go-to snack of choice. Always “unsalted” though!

Chopping the Shiitakes and Nuts

Along with a little garlic I pulsed them (separately) in my mini-prep. I’ve literally had this mini-prep for at least 15 years. I’ve only had to replace the bowl and blade. (Easily done on Amazon.) This is just about the very best kitchen gadget you can own. It’s similar to a regular food processor, except it hold about one to two cups tops. Its perfect for small jobs like this one, or to make a quick dressing. I probably use this gadget two to three times a week on average. Nowadays you can find them bundled with an immersion blender, another gadget I simply can not live without!

Burger ingredients: quinoa, shiitake, nuts, chia and chive.

While my quinoa was cooking I did a quick sauté with the mushrooms and garlic, just to take the raw edge off. Then mixed in the nuts and thyme. A little chive to give it a mild “oniony” flavor and the chia-gel as the binder.

Cooking the Quinoa Burger, by Maria Reina.

From my recipe I got five regular sized patties. You could certainly make them a bit smaller or even larger.

Herbed hummus for the Quinoa Burger, by Maria Reina.

Lately I’ve moved us to a different burger “bun.” We now use Arnold Sandwich Thins. Yes, every now and then you will find a regular bun in the cabinet, but who needs all that extra bread anyway? These are perfect and hold all the necessary accouterments. They are only 100 calories and come in all sorts of varieties. I’ve opted for the the multigrain, and after a little pushback from the husband (“What the heck is this thing?”), he’s sold on them too.  For the condiment I used a basic hummus and sprinkled a little thyme and chive to continue the flavors. This one is a keeper, and will work perfectly with a simple salad as well.

I hope you will give this one a try. Between the quinoa and chia alone how could you go wrong? Click on this recipe title to get my Quinoa, Shiitake and Nut Burger with Thyme.

Buon Appetito!



About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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