…Or, what I had for lunch today. And maybe dinner, too.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The origin of these burgers goes back to an event this summer organized by the Portland Mercury called Burger Week. For one week, a bunch of restaurants in town offered $5 burgers. For a vegetarian like me, that wasn’t particularly tempting, until I heard that the White Owl Social Club was offering a vegan burger as their special. A hazelnut beet burger, in fact. I went, I ate it, and it was glorious. (There’s a photo and description here.) They offer a version of it on their regular menu, but it’s not topped with “jalapeno havarti, ‘misonnaise,’ the legendary New Mexican roasted Hatch chilies, onion rings, and chimichurri sauce,” so I set out to create my own version at home so I could go nuts with the toppings.
This recipe is really long, and because there are so many elements, making these burgers takes awhile. But the recipe makes 10-12, so you can make up a big batch and keep them in your fridge/freezer for a quick lunch or dinner.
Hazelnut Beet Burgers
(adapted from here)
Makes 10-12 burgers
2-3 medium-sized red beets (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
2 tablespoons prunes, chopped into small pieces.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg (optional for non-vegan burgers)
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the rice until it’s a little overcooked but still firm (not completely mushy). This should take about 35 to 40 minutes. Alternately, cook the rice in 2 quarts of water in a rice cooker, checking the firmness after 30 minutes. Drain the rice and set it aside to cool.
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir the onions every minute or two, and cook until they are golden and getting charred around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Lower the heat if the onions seem to be burning. A dark, sticky crust should develop on the bottom of the pan.
Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark sticky crust. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry again. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Process the oats in a food processor until they have reduced to a fine flour. Add the hazelnuts and process until they’re finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and transfer the beans to the food processor. Scatter the prunes on top. Pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — not so long that they become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the second can of beans and add these whole beans to the mixing bowl as well.
Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink or a bowl. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets.
Transfer the squeezed beets, cooked rice, and sautéed onions to the bowl with the beans. Sprinkle the olive oil, brown mustard, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and thyme over the top of the mixture. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt, pepper, or any additional spices or flavorings to taste. Finally, add the oatmeal flour and hazelnut mixture and egg (if using), and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal or egg.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the burger mixture for at least 2 hours or (ideally) overnight. The mix can also be kept refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.
When ready to cook the burgers, first shape them into burgers. Scoop up about 1/2 cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of your hamburger buns. You should end up with 10-12 patties.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. When a flick of water evaporates on contact, the pan is ready.
Transfer the patties to the pan. Cook as many as will fit without crowding.
Cook the patties for 2 minutes, then flip them to the other side. You should see a nice crust on the cooked side. If any pieces break off when you flip the burgers, just pat them back into place with the spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Flip the burgers back over and cook for 5 more minutes until the patties are warmed through. If you’re adding cheese, lay a slice over the burgers in the last minute of cooking.
Serve the veggie burgers on soft burger buns or lightly toasted sandwich bread along with some fresh greens.
Freezing Burgers: Cook burgers and allow to cool. Wrap each burger individually in waxed paper or between sheets of parchment paper, and freeze. Cooked burgers can be reheated in the oven, a toaster oven, or the microwave.
Probably not all of them at once. But who am I to tell you what to do? 😉
Thin slices of cheese (suggested cheeses: gouda, monteray jack, jalapeno jack, provolone)
Jalapeno chili slices