Two weeks ago–after traveling many miles, seeing many new cities, and eating (and drinking) many, many delicious things–I returned home to the Midwest. Home to perfect spring weather and explosive flowering trees. Home to the reopening of farmers’ markets and to tasty local beer (congratulations, Grand Rapids!). Home to catching up with friends, to moving my life out of a suitcase and into a dresser, home to dinners enjoyed in the backyard, to breakfasts enjoyed on the front porch, and to the ease and familiarity of being back on the street where I grew up.
Home, most importantly, to beet burgers.
My old friend Helen, an almost vegan and very talented cook, recently told me about these wonderburgers and vowed to come to my kitchen to show me how to make them. She made good on that promise last night, and now I can say that I, too, am a beet burger believer. As for ingredients, this recipe brings together the intriguingly earthy (beets, bulgur, and raw almonds) with the seductively decadent (red wine and medjool dates) then tosses in a spoonful of Dijon mustard to give it a thrilling bite. What results is not only oh so pleasing to the eye, but has got a taste that can’t be beet (sorry – I couldn’t help myself!).
from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
1 pound beets, trimmed and grated (about 5 medium-sized beets)
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup bulgur
salt & pepper
3/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
a little vital wheat gluten (or all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Let’s begin by pitting the dates and grating the ginger. As for type of date, I prefer medjool. They’re plump and tender and are perfectly sticky-sweet.
Grate the beets using a food processor, then add the dates, almonds and ginger. Pulse a few more time until everything is nicely chopped but not quite a paste. Transfer to a large bowl and add the uncooked bulgur, salt, pepper, and mustard. Mix well.
Meanwhile, bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Once it’s boiling, stir into the beet mixture. Cover the bowl with a plate and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes.
Time to form some patties! Don’t be shy about getting your hands messy (because they will get messy). If the mixture feels too wet, add a sprinkle or two of vital wheat gluten (or flour) to help bind it. (Helen has found that gluten works better as a binder, but flour would work, too.) You should be able to form about six nicely-sized patties.
To fry the patties, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the patties. Let cook for about five minutes. Carefully flip the patties (they may crumble a bit, but don’t panic!) and let cook five minutes more on the opposite side. If you like your burgers a bit crispier, leave them on the skillet for a couple minutes longer.
Per Helen’s suggestion, we served these beet burgers on whole wheat buns spread generously with hummus and Dijon mustard and topped with a handful of greens. A couple wedges of watermelon and a few spears of roasted asparagus provided a colorful accompaniment to the flavor-packed main event.
This is a darn good burger, folks. It’s vegan, yes, but it’s so satisfyingly chewy and filling that I doubt a carnivore would complain. The mustard gives it a kick while the ginger lends a subtle but lovely zest. Other than a couple crumbles, the patty held together surprisingly well, thanks to the dates and gluten. And you can’t help but be charmed by the color — a vibrant ruby hue that almost literally sparkled in the early evening sun.
Many thanks to Helen for introducing me to this delightful beet burger. I have a feeling it may become as much a staple in my kitchen as it is in hers!
P.S. Do you love beets as much as I do? Don’t just stop at the entree; the beet goes on… to dessert! How about trying this pretty cake?