Japanese-Inspired Burger with Miso Mustard and Quick Pickles

Confession: I was a vegetarian for 15 years and now I eat meat. Not a lot of meat and only good quality stuff, but burgers are now one of my most favorite foods. Whenever Noah and I are at a loss for what to make for dinner (it doesn't happen often), the answer is usually burgers with homemade sweet potato fries. If we're not feeling like a heavy meal we'll wrap the burger in steamed chard leaves or raw cabbage cups instead of a bun. There's something about a thick, juicy burger that is so good and satisfying! 

This burger was inspired by one of my best-loved cuisines: Japanese. The burger itself is full of Japanese flavors like soy sauce and green onion and I came up with a miso-mustard spread that is sweet and salty and delicious. The quick pickles give it a crunch and the shiso-agrula salad with a honey vinaigrette adds a tang with a one-of-a-kind shiso kick. If you've never tried shiso, I would high recommend it. It's a flavor that's hard to describe and pretty much unique to Japanese cuisine. It's also really easy to grow if you're looking to add to your houseplant collection...       

Japan is super high on our list of places we really want to go, mostly because of the food, but also because it looks like a magical place, especially outside of the big cites. I've been drooling over these pictures (here and here too) by Beth Kirby over at Local Milk of her experience traveling around Japan for 3 months. Her writing is beautiful and engaging the images emanate a feeling of old tradition mixed with modern world conveniences. I can't wait until it's our turn to get lost in the old winding streets of Japanese mountain towns. 

// Japanese-Inspired Burger with Miso Mustard and Quick Pickles //  makes 6 burgers
The miso-mustard, vinaigrette, and quick pickles can be made in advance if you're short on time. But make sure to leave the vinaigrette off the salad until the last minute or else it'll turn into a big soggy mess. We used the leftover miso-mustard, mixed with a little bit of water, drizzled over an Asian rice bowl and it was delicious. 

1/4 cup yellow miso
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon black or white sesame seeds

1/3 pound daikon radish, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
8-10 small red radishes, leaves and roots removed
1 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup green onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

2 cups packed arugula
2 tablespoons shiso, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon chopped green onion

Vegetable oil for brushing grill
6 burger buns
Prepared wasabi
1-2 avocados, sliced

1. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat or prepare hot coals in a charcoal grill.  

2. To make the mustard, whisk together the miso, mustard, rice vinegar, mirin, and sugar in a small bowl. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds for 4 minutes, watching carefully and stirring often so they don’t burn. Remove sesame seeds from heat, let cool slightly, the add to miso mustard. Stir well, loosely cover, and set aside. 

3. To make the pickles, slice the daikon radish, carrot, and red radishes into very thin coins with a sharp knife or a mandolin. Place vegetables in a medium bowl or mason jar along with the whole peppercorns. In a small sauce pan, combine the rice vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour the vinegar mixture over the vegetables and let sit until burgers are ready. 

4. To make the burger patties, combine the beef, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, green onion, and wasabi in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. Form into 6 equal weight patties and set on a plate. 

5. For the shiso-arugula greens, combine the shiso and arugula in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, ginger, and green onion in a small bowl. Set aside. 

6. Brush the grill rack with a small amount of vegetable oil. Place the burger patties on a hot part of the grill and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Move the patties to a lower-heat area of the grill. For medium-rare burgers cook for another 2-3 minutes. For medium burgers cook for another 3-4 minutes. For well-done burgers cook for another 5-6 minutes. When burgers are done, remove from heat and place in a warm area. 

7. Cut the burger buns in half and place cut side down on the grill. Grill buns for 1-2 minutes.

8. To assemble burgers, spread 2-3 teaspoons of miso-mustard on one burger half. Spread a small amount of wasabi on the second half. For each burger place a patty on the bottom bun and top with 4-5 slices of pickles and several avocado slices. Toss the shiso-arugula greens with the vinaigrette and place 1/4 cup of greens over the avocado. Add top bun and serve immediately.