February 8, 2011

The Beet Goes On

These last few weeks it's felt like my kitchen has been turning out nothing but disappointing food.  Food that would sustain, but was nothing to write home about or even worth the effort to try and remember what exactly it was that I cooked.  There was a tortilla soup in there that was so underwhelming I had to go back and delete the bookmark from my recipes list in case I forgot its mediocrity and one day try and make it again.  I was just that disappointed.

So when I went to make these beet burgers I couldn't help but grumble a bit under my breath at the multiple steps it was taking to assemble something that sounded simple enough but had no guarantee it was going to be worth it.  I won't lie to you, the steps are kind of tedious - grate a couple of good size beets, cook some brown rice then puree it into a pile of mush, toast some walnuts and then chop those up, caramelize onions, and we haven't even got to the assembly or cooking yet - but here now at the other end of it all, I can wholeheartedly tell you it's worth it.

They're earthy and savory with pleasant little crunchy bits from the rice that crisps up on the edges while baking and toasted walnut pieces within.  Nothing compared to those soggy droopy things you find in the freezer section that squish out of all sides of the bun when you take your first bite.  You can of course play around with your seasonings, but I went with a combination of cumin and dried oregano and thyme to play off the earthy sweetness of the beets and caramelized onions.  I won't go so far as to say these could change the minds of beet haters out there, but I think they'd be a good candidate for the experiment.

We ate these two nights in a row, happily, and could have done another night had I not been in such a practical mood freezing the last 2 patties to eat at a later date, perhaps when the kitchen magic runs out again.

Beet Burgers
Adapted from Lucid Food

Like I said, these are quite tedious to make, but the payoff is great.  You'll dirty quite a few dishes and your hands may be tinged pink after all is said and done, but on the up side, if you're only 2 people, these burgers hold well in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for a bit too, so you'll get several meals in one.  For the final cooking definitely use a pan not a grill because while they're not mush, a few of mine really wanted to break when I flipped them.  I served mine simply with a slice of cheese melted on top on toasted bread with just a bit of mayonnaise, grainy mustard and a mix of salad greens and it was tops.  Don't pile too much on or else you won't fully appreciate the beet burger.

6 burgers

1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
2 beets
1 cup walnuts halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

buns or bread, toasted
cheese slices (provolone, cheddar, monterrey jack)
toppings of choice

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil, add brown rice, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.  When the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and let sit, covered for another 10 minutes.

Trim the tops and tails of the beets, then grate on the large side of a box grater onto a plate so as not to stain a counter top.

Meanwhile toast the walnuts on a cookie sheet until they became fragrant and turn a deep golden color, about 8 minutes.  Cool then chop finely (I just used a food processor for this) and set aside.

In a small saute pan (or use the same pan as the rice after it's done cooking and sitting), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add onion and stirring often, cook until the onion starts to caramelize and turn a light brown.  Add the minced garlic and herbs and spices and cook for 30 seconds more.  Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar making sure to scrape all the good bits off the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a food processor, process 1 cup of the rice, 1 cup grated beets and 1 teaspoon salt until it reaches a paste like consistency - this will be what holds your burger together.  Then add what remains, if any, of your cooked rice, the shredded beets, the chopped walnuts and caramelized onions, and pulse just a few times just to get everything incorporated.

Separate into six balls and form into 1/2" patties, placing them on a cookie sheet (the same one used for toasting the walnuts) that's been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Lightly spray tops of patties again with nonstick spray and bake for 45 minutes.

When ready to eat, heat a small amount of olive oil in a nonstick pan and reheat the beet burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, topping with a slice of cheese in the last minute or so to melt.  Serve on a toasted bun or bread with your toppings of choice.

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