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surviving the zombie apocalypse

Recipe: spicy tuna roll burger

***Don’t forget you have until the end of Friday, June 1, 2012 to enter my giveaway. Five people will win a custom dog or cat collar for their favorite furry pal and I will also donate $20 to each person’s animal shelter or rescue of choice!***

The more Jeremy and I talk about it, the more I am convinced that a mountain bike is a great thing to have during the zombie apocalypse. And a bike repair kit. You’ll want a backpack for carrying weapons and other stuff.

oh, and you’ll want a wendy

When I first met Wendy, she was making a delivery of autumn forage to a restaurant: beautiful wild apples, wild grapes, sumac, juniper berries… “Wow!” I exclaimed, “where do you find those?” It was an innocent question, but I didn’t realize that is a question you DO NOT ask a professional wild foods forager. She pursed her lips and grinned like a Cheshire Cat, raising her eyebrows, tilting her head to give me the side eye. Thankfully, I had not offended.

We’ve been planning to go foraging together for months. So it finally happened this week! I drove down to the flats and met up with her in the morning because we both despise the heat. Foraging is a natural extension of hiking for me since I cover up (to protect from sun, bugs, and plants), I carry a pack, I do a lot of walking/hiking, and I identify plants and make note of what stages they are at. In this case, we do all of that AND gather edibles!

her list

Now, I was familiar with most of the plants we foraged, but I had never thought to eat them nor knew that one could. Wendy taught me about the edible parts, the poisonous parts, the stage to harvest, and taking great care to harvest a little bit to leave plenty for the wildlife and so the plants still thrive. She explained a good deal about medicinal and culinary uses of each plant, their typical habitats, and she knew a ton of information regarding the nutrition. Wendy is a bubbly, hilarious walking encyclopedia who sincerely enjoys what she does. You can’t really help but love her.

yucca blossoms

i had picked two and wendy had already picked all of these (okay, i was taking photos…)


wear gloves to avoid the sticky white sap

I wasn’t in it for the food, I was really interested to learn how Wendy works and to watch a pro in action. We’re plant nerds, so we really had quite the time crawling about places to find the familiar and discover the new. It’s not terribly unlike some of the photography I do where I hike around and my eyes are in scan mode for a certain pattern or color. Pattern recognition. Wendy is quite adept at scanning for multiple plants among a field of what most everyone else would consider weeds. My brain was stuck in asparagus mode – maybe that’s because asparagus is the gateway plant to foraging for me? It’s something we’re all familiar with in the stores and markets, but to find it growing wild was so much fun!

end of the season here, but how precious is that asparagus!

wild roses (ten thousand times better than any domestic rose)


stinging nettles

From now on out, I don’t think I’ll be able to walk in green areas without going into search mode. Wendy did point out one lovely plant that stood about 6 feet high. “Don’t ever eat this, don’t even touch it to your mouth. This can kill you.” She explained that most of the plants in Colorado that are bad for you will make you sick, give you a headache, result in an allergic reaction, but not poison hemlock. Poison Hemlock is a neurotoxin and it is one of the few plants in the state that, when ingested, can result in death.

poison hemlock: deadly

We – well really it was Wendy – foraged enough to fill a large cooler. She tried to divvy up the loot and send me home with some, but I declined (except a small bag of elderflowers I had gathered). This is her food, what she lives on. The woman makes some impressive dishes with the ingredients too. I was mainly interested in seeing her at work and learning about the plants. I didn’t realize it would be as fun as it was fascinating. Wendy is a gem.

Another reason I didn’t take some of the wild foods home was because I already had a full fridge at home that demanded my attention. If you will recall that delectable California roll burger I made a few months ago, you can probably guess that I’ve been scheming to give a spicy tuna roll burger a shot.


Spicy tuna sushi is no stranger in this house as we love the sushi and sushi bar-related bites. I get good sushi-grade maguro (tuna) from the Boulder Whole Foods seafood counter. Make sure you get sushi-grade which means the fish has been frozen to the appropriate temperatures (temperatures you won’t reach in your typical home freezer) for long enough to ensure the destruction of any parasites. Not so appetizing to discuss, but worth the alternative of not knowing…

mayonnaise, sriracha, green onions, maguro (tuna)

chopped onions and chopped tuna

mix in the mayonnaise

If you don’t like spicy, you don’t have to make this spicy. A small squirt of sriracha lends mostly flavor and not a huge amount of heat (or maybe I just really like spicy?). I add a small amount so we can both eat the spicy tuna sushi, but then I add MORE sriracha on my burger because that’s how I roll.

exercising restraint

a good orange color

I’ve mentioned this before in my California roll burger post, but it’s worth repeating here: add a dash of fish sauce to a pound of ground beef for your burger patties for that extra umami deliciousness in your burgers. It’s a tip from my friends, Todd and Diane, that has become a requirement in this house. You don’t have to do it, but it is highly, highly recommended. Oh hell, just DO IT.

yes to the fish sauce

patties, spicy tuna, pickled ginger (not pink), wasabi mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, buns, seaweed, sriracha

The nori strips I used in my California burger roll were just that – straight nori that you use for making sushi. Since then, I’ve become addicted to these little seaweed snacks – roasted seaweed squares that come in super thin and crisp sheets. So I cut those into strips instead because they have a stronger seasoning and I don’t have to sacrifice one of my larger nori sheets. Prep all of your burger ingredients before you grill the burgers, that way you can assemble as soon as they are off the grill and enjoy something akin to the McDLT (the hot stays hot and the cool stays cool) except waaaaaaaay the hell better.

spread some wasabi mayonnaise on the top bun

plop that patty on the lettuce and tomato

top with sliced avocado

Put as much or as little spicy tuna on the burger as you like. I’ll warn you now, it is a tall burger. If you plan to shove it into your mouth without the use of utensils, then loading it up with heaps of spicy tuna just means you will be licking spicy tuna off your plate or your pants. It’s all about viscosity, shear, and the coefficient of friction. And while I used a challah roll on my California roll burger, I switched to a potato roll here because it wasn’t so poofy and tall. Make sure you test the quality of your hamburger buns, because some brands fall apart, taste like sawdust, and just suck all around (I’m looking at you, Rudi’s). Never again.

layer the spicy tuna, seaweed strips, and some pickled ginger slices

oh yes! extra dripping sriracha!

This is, for the record, a fantabulous burger. It’s got all of those wonderful competing textures (creamy, crunchy, bready, beefy) and flavors (umami, more umami, spicy, buttery, salty, sweet) going at the same time. Is it better than the California roll burger? Ummm, no. It is a VERY CLOSE second, but I think (if food-coma memory serves me right) that the California roll burger is still our favorite – but by the slimmest of margins. Regardless, this masterpiece of a burger is worth trying at least once if you love burgers and sushi.

you are mine…

Spicy Tuna Roll Burger
[print recipe]
inspired by the menu at 26 Beach

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 tsp fish sauce (don’t omit this, seriously)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2-1 tsp wasabi powder (to taste)
4 hamburger buns
lettuce, washed (I like red butter lettuce – squashes nicely)
tomato, sliced
avocado, sliced (how to slice an avocado)
spicy tuna (recipe below)
pickled ginger (gari)
nori strips, use nori or the roasted seaweed snacks
Sriracha sauce

spicy tuna
6 oz. sushi-grade maguro (tuna), roughly chopped with any thick silverskin removed
3-4 green onions, minced (greens only)
2-3 tbsps mayonnaise (to desired consistency)
Sriracha sauce (optional)

Spicy tuna: Mix the tuna, green onions, and a tablespoon of plain mayonnaise together in a medium bowl. Add more mayonnaise to reach your desired consistency. Add a dash of Sriracha hot sauce and mix to desired spiciness.

Combine the ground beef, fish sauce, salt and pepper in a separate bowl. I like to mix it with my hands to make sure it’s all incorporated evenly. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise with up to a teaspoon of wasabi powder to taste. Form the ground beef into four patties, taking care not to pack them too tightly. Grill the patties on high heat to desired doneness, flipping once. Remove the burgers when ready and layer on the bottom bun: lettuce, tomato, burger, avocado, spicy tuna, pickled ginger slices, nori strips, and Sriracha sauce (optional). Spread wasabi mayo on the top bun and cap the burger. Serve hot. Makes 4 burgers.

19 nibbles at “surviving the zombie apocalypse”

  1. Audrey says:

    Ooh, could you meet up with Wendy again and photograph some of the dishes she creates with her foraged goodies?

  2. Kristin says:

    Wild asparagus?! Holy cow! I’m so glad that I’m not a slob sometimes, and that it’s just viscosity, shear & the coefficient of friction…that’s such a relief! Fish sauce is my daughter’s favorite condiment. Looking forward to trying it in burgers.

  3. DeeDee says:

    This might be the most amazing looking thing I’ve ever seen. I could SO use one of those right now!

  4. Monsterscircus says:

    My preciouuus! That look absolutely devine! I must really try this, thank you for the inspiration. Have a lovely Day!

  5. Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen says:

    Oh my dear goodness! All those layers of goody! and that raw tuna mayo!!!

  6. Manda says:

    I’m with Audrey – I’d love to know how Wendy prepares her foraged loot.

  7. Margie says:

    yummy, yum, yum…this is on my list of things to make. :)

  8. Sherry says:

    There’s a fair amount of wild asparagus and watercress (not to mention mushrooms like morels and matsutake) around here but I have no idea where they can be found. The thought of picking something poisonous is what keeps me from foraging, though I’m always interested in it…. You’re right that foragers are pretty tight-lipped about their spots but even those who just do it for fun are usually unlikely to reveal good locations for a newbie.

  9. Jules says:

    That is one amazing looking burger, love your work!

  10. na says:

    O.M.G. That looks awesome!
    I have a book/cookbook on foraging that I’ve somehow not read yet. Your post is inspiring me to go ahead and read it :-)

  11. Nan says:

    Saving this one! Yum!

    My dad and grandmother used to forage food. My father would come home with bags of Morels and asparagus — taken from secret places only he knew. The secret went with my father’s passing. My grandmother was a wizard at foraging greens and nettles. I loved walking with her — talking away but not paying close enough attention — as she gathered bags of greens for dinner. I grow greens in the garden. They are delicious but don’t hold a candle to my grandmothers.

  12. Peg says:

    My mouth is dripping! We’ve turned temp vegetarians to lose some lbs. and get my husband’s cholesterol down. Its been 4 months since eating anything meat-like. This is going to be our first meat meal for sure! Good one, Jen!

  13. amy says:

    I’ve met Wendy at several of the Mile High Swappers Food Swaps. She is awesome! Yay for her and her ButterPowered Bike! And that burger…swoon!

  14. brenda s 'okie in colorado' says:

    OH MY GOODNESS! This burger looks heavenly. My two favorite things. Burgers and tuna roll. I will be making this as soon as possible. Thanks for sharing your incredible recipes, photos, and stories, Jen.

  15. joanne says:

    I have yucca growing in my garden, and each year, I love looking at the flowers. I had no idea they are edible! Please share!

  16. jenyu says:

    Audrey – no, but you can visit Wendy’s blog which I linked to in the post.

    Kristin – it’s so cool (the asparagus)

    DeeDee – quite good, but indulgent for sure!

    Monsterscircus – :)

    Jesica – it’s quite good. Really good…

    Manda – please visit her blog which I linked to in the post.

    Margie – hope you like it!

    Sherry – I think that’s the difference between a newb and a pro.

    Jules – thank you!

    na – yes, I have one too that I think I need to revisit.

    Nan – those are some special memories. xo

    Peg – ha ha! Enjoy it!

    amy – Wendy is a gem, to be sure!

    brenda – you’re so welcome!

    joanne – Hank Shaw writes about it here:

  17. do says:

    Oh my gosh! Perfection! You ought to have a restaurant!

  18. Kevin @ Closet Cooking says:

    That is one amazing burger! Great idea!

  19. Aloha Omaha Burger - Wicked Spatula says:

    […] quick google search revealed that I wasn’t the first one with this genius idea. Jen over at Use Real Butter had already came up with what looked like to be exactly what I was going for so I slightly […]

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