Look, I’m the first one to tell you that I’ve never been one for veggie burgers. Stop trying to pass vegetables off as meat. I know the difference. But these aren’t trying to be meat at all. They have their own unique character and there’s something about the sweet smokiness that I absolutely love. I can’t stop eating them. The recipe makes seven or eight patties and I ate them all myself the first week. Then I made them again last week and same deal. Of course it helped that no one was fighting me for them. Husband’s on his low-carb diet again and the kids, well, I only made them take one bite, more out of selfishness than mercy. Hands off my beet burgers, kids...and quit it with the mock vomit noises.
Full disclosure: you have to have an open mind when making these. They create a lot of dishes to wash and they’re very weirdly constructed. Let’s list a few of the more unusual ingredients: Beets (yes, we’ve already covered that, Tammy). Lentils. Walnuts! Raisins?! This is weird and wacky stuff. I admit I was initially drawn to the recipe because deep down I was like, there’s no WAY this is going to be good. Sometimes I like to follow a path to its inevitable ridiculous conclusion just to see what happens. Usually my instincts are correct about the impending train wreck ahead, but once in a while, I’m pleasantly surprised. This was one of those times.
But even if I can’t convince you to dig some beets out of the murky depths of your crisper for this experiment, you’ll still want to check out the cookbook this recipe came from. It’s called The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia and it’s an absolute stunner, all rose petals, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds. It’s a keeper.
Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers
This is a great use for leftover rice. I skip the bun and ketchup, and opt instead for a dollop of tzatziki with lots of dill. The smoked paprika is essential to the flavor. Do not substitute.
1/4 cup dried green lentils
1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil, plus extra for searing
1 medium beet, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 cups cooked short-grain white or brown rice, at room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small pot of boiling water, cook the lentils until tender while preparing the other ingredients, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmery hot. Add the onion and sauté until it starts to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn down the heat slightly and add the grated beets along with the garlic, walnuts, raisins, and smoked paprika. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor and pulse until chunky, about 20 seconds. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture with the lentils, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Replace the bowl of the food processor (no need to wash) and add the rice and egg. Pulse for 20-30 seconds until you have a coarse, sticky mixture. Add the rice to the bowl of onions and lentils and mix well with your hands.
Lightly oil your hands and make about 8 small patties not quite 1-inch thick. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to coat the bottom. Place the burgers in the skillet and cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Gently flip the burgers and turn the heat down to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, until they are cooked through and the burgers have a firm, brown crust.
Source: Adapted from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia