The Golightly Gourmet: Reducing greenhouse gases, one burger at a time

“But that’s the challenge — to change the system more than it changes you.”


By Michael Pollan

Our world is changing.  I have lived here for 20 years now and I can honestly say I have never experienced a dryer and warmer summer than this. Climate change has finally come to roost here at our lovely coast and it is time to talk about it. Last article I opened the conversation on this overwhelming topic and how I will tie several articles together on this difficult subject.
Agriculture is the greatest contributor to global warming. One of the reasons is that it emits more greenhouse gases than all our cars, trucks, trains and airplanes put together. The biggest offender of all of this is the meat industry which releases huge amounts of methane gas into our atmosphere and consumes 36% of the grains grown. (55% makes it to humans and the rest is turned into biofuel)
The meat industry, particularly the beef industry is a very messy business that is a huge consumer of grains, fuel, land and water. In fact 90% of land that is used for livestock in the USA is used for farming beef cows. Food from cows is a very poor use of our resources as the cattle industry uses 3 times more food and water than any other livestock industry.
Corn fed beef is not only hard on the resources but it is hard on the cows and the people who eat them. When the cows are brought to the feed lot they are fed corn, corn plants and sorghum. A cow’s stomach has evolved to eat foods that are high in fiber, like grass. When they are feed a diet high in carbohydrates, like corn, their system goes haywire and they would die quickly if it wasn’t for all the weird science going on.
The cows are pumped full of steroids, given drugs to promote growth, antibiotics to prevent infection, and another wonder drug (like an antacid on steroids) to keep them from getting sick from all the grain that they eat. With all these drugs the beef industry is now able to produce more meat with fewer cattle. So that lovely marbled beef in the market is also marbled with LOTS of drugs. If you do chose to eat beef, please eat grass fed whenever possible.
I remember when I first read “Diet for a small planet” back in the late “80’s and was appalled at what the meat industry was doing to America and promptly became a vegetarian for 10 years. One does not have to go vegetarian to make a difference here just cut back on your meat consumption. If everyone in the US elected to eat no meat, particularly beef, once a week for a year that would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road for that year. Now that adds up.
I recommend starting with this delicious veggie burger that is created to be like the very famous mushroom/bean burger at the Portland landmark restaurant Veritable Quandary aka VQ. It is jam-packed with umami flavors (the fifth taste that is a deep savory flavor we can’t get enough of) and is even better if you use wild mushrooms in the fall. Don’t be freaked out about the ingredient list, it all goes together fast and they freeze well to be saved for another day you want to help save the earth.

VQ mushroom bean burger

Inspired by Portland’s Veritable Quandary restaurant. Makes 6-8 burgers

1/2 cup of dry lentils of your choice (I used black beluga)
One 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz or 1.5 cups of sliced mushrooms (crimini or wild are best)
1 scant cup of toasted hazelnuts (Or any nut you have on hand)
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan or blue cheese crumbles
1/2 medium red onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 TBLS of olive oil
2 TBLS of balsamic vinegar
2 beaten eggs
2 TBLS of flour or (coconut flour for gluten free)
1.5 tsps of salt
3-4 TBLS of fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used basil, yum!)

The first thing to do is prepare your lentils by first washing them then put them in a some saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a happy boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook till tender, about 25 mins. (The water should all be absorbed but if it isn’t drain the lentils)
Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out your handy dandy food processor I encouraged you to get. (It is honestly one of my favorite kitchen tools other than my blender and my kitchen aide mixer) In your food processor, pulse the mushrooms until they are finely mushed, add to a mediumish bowl. Process the white beans until smooth; transfer to the bowl. Chop the onion into quarters and with the garlic cloves, pulse until minced; transfer to the bowl. Pulse the hazelnuts and herbs until coarsely ground and (you guessed it) transfer to the bowl. Pulse the lentils until they are pureed, then add to the very happy bowl of goodness.
Stir in the olive oil, balsamic, beaten eggs stir to combine. Sprinkle the salt and flour over top and mix. Form into six to eight patties (it will feel pretty loose, don’t worry, it firms up). I used a giant ice cream scoop to make it easier. Bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 30 minutes till frim and starting to brown. If you want them to be crispier fry them for the last 10 mins in some coconut oil in a big frying pan. Serve hot with caramelized onions or let cool, wrap tightly and freeze for later use. They are great on a bun or delicious without it.