We Got the Beet (Burgers)

The veggie burgers at Northstar Café in Columbus, Ohio, are hands-down among the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. I was raised in a meat-and-potatoes household, but I’d take the beet, black bean and rice patty over beef ones almost any day — as would many carnivores, judging from the online raves. So when CSA beets arrived, I found a few recipes online that tried to replicate one of my old hometown favorites. — Josie Rubio

{Recipe after the jump.}
The first recipe I tried was from a blog called Sweet Peas & Pumpkins. Since I had two weeks’ worth of beets, I used a bit more than called for, plus I used fresh thyme from my CSA share. With the exception of the extra beets, I followed that recipe to the letter, and the burgers turned out really well (if a bit on the beet-y side) and the patties didn’t fall apart.

For my second attempt, I turned to the kitchn recipe, which my boyfriend had made before but vowed never to make again, because they tended to fall apart and put him in a bad mood. This time, however, I made them using some helpful hints posted at the bottom of the blog’s comments section.

To the thekitchn.com recipe I added chipotle peppers and prunes, which are increasingly hard to find in the grocery store because they’re now called dried plums after an image makeover. The other recipe also calls for lemon juice, but I had a lime, so I used that instead, and I completely forgot to use the apple cider vinegar. The peppers add a smokey flavor, but if you don’t like spice, you may want to skip them. Also, these burgers still tend to fall apart a bit, so the spelt flour may work a bit better for keeping them together.

The results? It’s still not the Northstar Café version, but it’s still a great veggie burger. A friend who worked at Northstar once told me she knew the secret. “Is it meat?” I asked. (It’s not.) But no one seems to be able to give a definitive answer as to what makes the Northstar Burger so delicious. Though those burgers seem impossible to replicate at home, here’s my best attempt. 

Beet Burgers

Cooking time: Approximately 90 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup brown rice
  • 1 tsp, 1 tbsp and 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 pound (or so) beets, diced small
  • 3-4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 oz chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (½ can)
  • 8-10 diced prunes or “dried plums”
  • juice from ½ lime
  • 2 tbsp parsley, dried or fresh
  • 1 tsp coriander (dried cilantro)
  • ½ tsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp spelt or all-purpose flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • 4 buns

 Assembling the burgers:

Bring 1 cup water to a boil, then add ½ cup brown rice and turn heat down to a simmer. Cook the rice for about 50 minutes, and fluff when finished.

While the rice is cooking, heat the teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until the pieces are soft and translucent. Add beets, stir, and cook until beets are tender—about 15 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Put the drained black beans into a bowl. Pour some adobo sauce into the bowl and dice the peppers the best you can, just so there are no large chunks of pepper. Add the diced prunes and stir the mixture, mashing with a fork.

Add the cooked rice, beet mixture, lime juice, tablespoon of olive oil, parsley, coriander and thyme. Stir to combine and salt and pepper to taste. Add flour and mix.

Scoop up about a handful of the mixture and roll into a ball, then flatten to form a patty. You’ll end up with either six small patties or four large ones.

Put two tablespoons in skillet and heat to medium-high. Place the patties on the skillet and cook on each side for four to five minutes, until they develop a nice crust. Place cheese on the top of the patties about a minute before they’re done cooking.

Serve the burgers on soft buns, with optional lettuce, pickles, mustard and ketchup. Leftover patties can be refrigerated and placed on waxed paper in Ziploc bags—or even frozen for later use.

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