Veggie Burgers with Farro, Mushrooms & Cheese

I don’t know about you, but I could use a laugh or two!  It’s grey here in Rochester, and the news is full of contention. I’ve been wanting to share some funny tales for awhile, but none of them are long enough to turn into stories. So I thought I would bring some cheer to you all, with little snippets of humor and fun. Hope they bring a grin to your face and sunshine to your day:

Before Mr. Batch got his current job, he was doing a lot of traveling while interviewing. He would text his final goodbyes from the airport gates as the airlines boarded his planes. “They’re starting to board,” he would write. “Elite members … first class … business class.”  Then he would continue, “Stupendous class … better-than-most class… I’m waiting for them to board my group: peasant class.” Years later, from a different airline that boarded by precious metal categories, he joked that, “We’re pewter class!”

Mr. Batch and I were eating lunch one day. As we were cleaning up the table, Mr. Batch picked up my can of soda — mistaking it to be empty, when it was still 1/2-full.  In surprise, he dropped the can and some of the tasty beverage poured out.
Mr. Batch: “Wow!  I’m so sorry!  THAT was a misjudgment of mass and momentum!”
Me: “Wow!  One of us obviously has a Ph.D. and the other one would’ve just said, ‘Sorry, I spilled!'”

When Mr. Batch and I started dating, I wrote an email to my family to tell them about him and the dates he had taken me on. I wrote, “Mostly we spend time biking around San Francisco, which is tons of fun. We also went hiking recently on Mt. Tamalpais and then, after sunset that evening, attended an astronomy lecture in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars led by a UC-Berkeley instructor.” To which my brother replied, “Oh man, I wanna do that stuff! If it doesn’t work out with you two, can I have his phone number?”

I was complaining to my friend Max that I had put-on weight after Mr. Batch and I started dating, to which Max replied, “Well, when you catch the bus, you stop running!”

This next one isn’t so much funny, as it is insightful. This same friend Max and I worked together for a short time. He would encourage me to take a break for lunch, which is not in my nature. He told a story: “There are two wood-cutters — one who chops more wood than the other. Do you know why?  Because he *stops* to sharpen his axe!”

Some “butcherings” of words throughout the years, that have made their way into my family’s vernacular: “Balsmatic” vinegar (instead of balsamic), as requested of me when I used to wait tables. “Dilapidated” woodpeckers (instead of pileated) and “Sasquatch” camellias (instead of sasanquas). Used in a sentence such as, “Hey Mom, is that one of those dilapidated woodpeckers in the tree near the Sasquatch camellia bush?”

A few years ago, Mr. Batch and I stopped to ask directions. As we started to follow the directions, I murmured, “OK … they told us to turn left here, and then …” To which I heard Mr. Batch reply, “I have to admit, ever since we started dating, I’ve stopped listening to instructions!”

And one last one to bring you a dash of joy: When Mr. Batch and I got engaged, we hired an artist to draw caricatures of us to use on our wedding invitations. On her first draft, the artist captured me perfectly, but we decided that Mr. Batch looked more like a mariachi band member than himself. The next morning when the alarm went off, Mr. Batch greeted me with “Ola, Señorita!” I replied, “You amaze me! How do you go from unconscious sleeping … to awake and instantly funny?!?!”

I hope this recipe for Veggie Burgers with Farro, Mushrooms & Cheese also brings you joy!  These are heavily inspired by the New York Times Cooking recipe for Farro with Mushrooms. Modified slightly, and then adapted to make into veggie burger patties:

Yield: 12 veggie burgers

  • 24-oz package of mushrooms (I used “baby bellas” — baby portobellos — but you could use crimini or white button … or a mixture)

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly, and remove the stems and set the stems aside. Slice the mushrooms and set aside to dry.

  • Reserved mushroom stems from above
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 or 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • several grinds of freshly cracked pepper

Combine ingredients in sauce pot and bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, then taste, adjust seasoning, and strain.  **Alternatively, use store-bought vegetable stock. Or make, using veggie scraps from your bag of “ends-n-nubs” you are storing in the freezer from previous cooking sessions.

  • 2 cups of farro

While the vegetable stock is cooking, put farro in a bowl and pour enough hot water over the farro to cover by an inch. Set aside.

  • 3/4 cup dried mushrooms, rinsed
  • 2 cups boiling water

Place the dried mushrooms in a large Pyrex measuring cup or bowl, and pour in boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Clockwise from upper left corner: farro soaking; homemade vegetable stock using mushroom stems; dried mushrooms reconstituting in boiling water; “baby bella” mushrooms, to be sliced.

Drain the reconstituted dried mushrooms through a strainer set over a bowl and lined with a coffee filter, to catch the mushroom-flavored liquid without letting any grit/dirt pass through. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer, then add the mushroom-flavored liquid to the reserved vegetable stock from above. You should have 6 cups, total (add water if necessary). Place in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt to taste.

Rinse the  reconstituted dried mushrooms in several changes of water to remove any additional grit. Chop coarsely and set aside.

  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • sliced mushrooms from above
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and sweat. Add salt and pepper, to taste, the garlic and rosemary. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about five minutes.

  • Strained farro from above
  • Reconstituted dried mushrooms from above

Add the farro and reconstituted dried mushrooms to the mushroom mixture. Cook, stirring, until the grains of farro are separate and beginning to crackle, about two minutes.

  • 3/4 cup dry white wine

Stir in the wine and cook, stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Add all but about 1 cup of the vegetable-mushroom stock from above, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 50 minutes or until the farro is tender; some of the grains will be beginning to splay. Remove the lid, and stir vigorously from time to time. Taste and adjust seasoning. There should be some liquid remaining in the pot but not too much. If the farro is submerged in stock, raise the heat and cook until there is just enough to moisten the grains, like a sauce.

*For a vegan side dish or main course, you could stop here.

Allow mixture to cool.  Once cool, stir-in:

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (though we’re trying to avoid gluten, farro has gluten, so I chose all-purpose flour versus coconut flour for this recipe)

Using wet hands, shape into patties and place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 minutes, rotating pan 180-degrees after 15 minutes, for even cooking in case your oven has hot spots.

These patties have a chewy texture, because cooked faro is almost “spongey” in texture, plus the added cheese. Freezing them and then thawing them made them a tad bit chewier, just FYI.

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