In grilling season, there's probably no food more popular than burgers. And while many kinds of burgers have become mainstream, from turkey to tuna to vegetarian, beef remains king.
But what if you could have the taste and juiciness of beef while cutting back on a bit of the fat?
The answer: Add in some mushrooms.
When chopped, mushrooms (either cooked or raw) have a similar texture to ground meat, and blend right in. It's a nice way to lighten up a summertime staple.
And then there's ponzu sauce, with which I've recently become a little besotted. Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce used often in Japanese cooking. It is salty and tangy, made from vinegar, mirin (a low-alcohol rice wine), seaweed and fish flakes (please, don't be turned off), and it has just a wonderful flavor. The citrus most commonly added is either juice or zest from yuzu or sudachi, two fruits from East Asia.
Ponzu sauce is often drizzled over foods for a finishing touch, or used as a dip, but here it's blended into the meat and mushrooms for yet another layer of umami (Japanese for "savory").
Both ponzu sauce and wasabi paste (or wasabi powder, which can be blended with water to make a paste) are available at Asian markets and in the Asian aisle of well-stocked supermarkets.
For these burgers, the wasabi mayo is optional. They also would be great with ketchup or mustard, and of course lettuce, onion and tomato.
A last cooking tip: Chilling the burgers before grilling them helps them hold their shape. They also are great seared up in a pan, and hold together even better.
Start to finish: 2 hours
Servings: 6 burgers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound shiitake or baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons ponzu sauce, plus more for brushing
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons grated ginger
2 pounds ground beef
Wasabi Mayonnaise (optional)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi paste, or to taste
6 hamburger buns
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When the oil's hot, add the mushrooms to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms release any liquid and it evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to turn nicely browned, about 8 to 10 minutes in all. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, 3 tablespoons ponzu sauce, garlic and ginger. Finely chop the cooled mushrooms using a knife or by pulsing in the food processor, and then add them along with the beef to the bowl. Use your hands to gently mix until well combined.
Form the mixture into six patties, and use your thumbs to make slight indentations in the center of each burger. (That will cause them to end up flat when they cook.) Refrigerate the burgers for at least an hour, preferably two or three, to let them firm up. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the wasabi paste. Adjust the level of heat to your taste, adding more mayo or wasabi paste as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Preheat the grill to medium high. Grill the burgers for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, turning them carefully with a large spatula, until they are done to your liking. Alternatively, heat a large, nonstick pan over medium high heat and sear the burgers 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Brush the tops lightly with the additional ponzu sauce. Serve on the buns (toasted if you wish) with the wasabi cream, lettuce, tomatoes, onions or anything you like!
Nutrition information per serving: 548 calories; 313 calories from fat; 35 g fat (11 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 147 mg cholesterol; 907 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 28 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman/