“California” Burgers with Zucchini Fries and Spicy Balsamic Honey Mustard

Here we are – the entree round of the Diced! competition!  Thank you to all my followers, friends and family who helped get me through into the next round 🙂  Now, without further ado, let’s kick things off! (To view on the competition’s main page and to vote pretty plleassseeee!!! click here)

This time around, the ingredients we were required to include in our entree were:

Large portabello mushrooms
Balsamic Vinegar

I was in quite a pickle reading these ingredients (har har).  How to make a dish that was cohesive AND delicious – especially when I had never seen let alone cooked with quinoa?  Then it hit me – labor day was right around the corner.  We HAVE to celebrate the last official day of summer, right?  Well… in Florida every day is summer, but you get the picture.  What better way to revel in the summer sun than with a grill, some burgers, and some beers?  And so, this farewell to summertime recipe was born – and I’m so glad it was, because I think it has revolutionized how I will make burgers from now on.

California Burgers with Zucchini Fries and Spicy Balsamic Honey Mustard!

labor day!

“California” Burgers with Zucchini Fries and Spicy Balsamic Honey Mustard!
serves 6-8



The patties!


3 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean
1 c. quinoa, uncooked
3 eggs
1/4 c. dried onion flakes
1/4 c. garlic powder
1/2-1 c. worcestershire sauce (depending on how much you love or hate worcestershire)
1/8-1/4 c. olive oil
and pepper


DSCN0769          DSCN0767

2 large avocados, sliced
3 large portabello mushrooms
1 large handful alfalfa sprouts
1 package smoked provolone cheese
Any other burger toppings you like!

The zucchini fries!

3 large zucchinis
3 eggs
, separated (we are only using the whites)
3 c. flour
1 c. quinoa
1/4 c. garlic powder
1 c. corn starch
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. salt
Pepper to taste
About 3 c. vegetable oil, for frying

The spicy balsamic honey mustard!

1/2 c. spicy brown mustard
1/8 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey


Place your ground beef in a bowl deep enough to mix all the ingredients together.

Cover your portabello mushroom caps (removing the stems and placed gill side up) with 2 T. balsamic vinegar and let marinate.

Now, generally I would bind my burgers with bread crumbs.  However, I had to use quinoa in this recipe – and I’ve never cooked with it before.  I was talking about the competition with some friends and I even had no idea how it was pronounced: I kept calling it “kin-wa” before my boyfriend pulled me aside and lovingly told me how wrong that was!  After watching plenty of Chopped episodes, however, I wasn’t going to let unfamiliarity stop me.  So, I knew it was a grain – and being a starch, it could technically work as a binder – and I was right!  Not only does it bind the burgers just as well as bread crumbs, but when raw, it absorbs all those delicious meaty juices as the burger cooks and imparts a nutty flavor to it.  It worked so wonderfully that, whenever possible, I’m going to use quinoa as my binding agent from now on.

Take your quinoa and throw it in the blender.  Blend it on high until it mostly forms a powder.  This will take a little while, and all of it won’t get broken up, but as long as its somewhat crushed up it should work fine.


like this

Add your eggs, onion flakes, garlic powder, worcestershire, and salt and pepper to the bowl of ground beef.  Add the quinoa and olive oil and mix however you like (I use my hands – and if you do too, use the trick of wetting your hands before proceeding to keep the meat from sticking to you).  Form the burgers into patties and set aside until you’re ready to grill.

Here’s a little trick for perfect burger patties: after forming the circle, place a little depression in the middle of each patty with your knuckles (so it looks a little like a doughnut).  This ensures that, as the burger cooks and shrinks up on itself, it will cook evenly throughout.

Now, for the zucchini fries!  I didn’t realize how much I loved zucchini until now.  I’ve always been a big vegetable fan, and zucchini is up there with my favorites.  This is a completely different way to make it, and while not perfectly healthy, it certainly is healthier than regular french fries – and just as delicious!

 Heat up your oil on high in a sautoir or sauce pan – you want enough oil that the zucchini fries can float without touching the bottom of the pan.  While you’re doing that, turn your grill on high to start heating it up.  Cut your zucchini into strips, spears, whatever – however you like your fries to look.  Don’t worry about the skin – it adds color and is just as easy to eat as the flesh.  Whisk up the egg whites from the 3 eggs (you can just toss the yolks) until they get frothy.  This adds some volume and crispness to your batter.  Salt and pepper your raw zucchini, then place in the egg whites.

Mix all the other ingredients together to form your batter – the corn starch and baking soda, just like whisking up the egg whites, add a really lovely crispy texture when fried.  Take the zucchini out of the egg, knocking off the excess, and coat in your batter mixture. Test if it’s hot enough by touching a zucchini to the oil.  It should fizzle and start frying.  When it’s ready, drop in your zucchini fries.  They only need a minute or two to fry – otherwise the zucchini will turn to mush.  Place on a paper towel to drain and cool and sprinkle with a touch of salt.

Grill up your burgers, lowering the heat to med-high, for 6-10 minutes depending on the size of the patties and the doneness you prefer.  While you’re doing that, mix up all the ingredients for the spicy honey mustard and adjust seasonings and amounts to taste.  Dry off the marinated portabello caps with a paper towel and place on the grill for about 3 minutes, gill side down, and then slice them up.  Put your burgers together however you want – go nuts!

go ahead - take a bite

go ahead – take a bite

I did (from the bottom up) patty, cheese, portabello, avocado, and topped it all off with a hefty amount of sprouts (I love them – and they’re good for you!)  Spread a little of the spicy balsamic honey mustard on the bun and you’re ready to go.  Serve with the zucchini fries and a side of the spicy balsamic honey mustard for dipping.  Summertastic – and as far as burgers go, not the unhealthiest option out there 🙂


What goes best with summer sunshine?  Lemonade?  Beer?  How about BOTH!?  You read that right – this delicious alcohol option will get your party going and keep summer on your minds – and tongues – a little while longer.

Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy – a delicious blend of lemonade and beer that tastes like everything summer stands for.  It goes deliciously with the burger, cooling the spice in the honey mustard and complementing that delicious meaty, nutty flavor from the quinoa and portabello.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe – I know I did!  I look forward to creating a delicious dessert for the next round, so if you like what you hear, remember to vote at http://rantingchef.com/2013/09/12/diced-echo-california-burgers-with-zucchini-fries-and-spicy-balsamic-honey-mustard/ for…


that’s me! credits go to my wonderful boyfriend for this 🙂

Lemonade and sunshine,

2 thoughts on ““California” Burgers with Zucchini Fries and Spicy Balsamic Honey Mustard

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