A college kid tries a beet burger

I’m here to say, it can be done. A veggie-detesting, meat-eating, extremely picky, college student  can be convinced to enjoy the unbelievable: a beet burger.  Maybe it was because he’s turning out to be a polite young gentleman, maybe it’s because he and his mother-in-law were eating dinner in our new apartment for the first time in a while, maybe it was a full moon, whatever the case, I’m proud to say, it was consumed!  I received the ultimate compliment too, when he remarked, "Wow.  It really wasn't as bad as I though it would be."  

As I reflected on this amazing feat (you have no idea how picky my brother-in-law is), I realized it reaffirmed a key pillar I learned in my health coach training.  The idea of enjoying your food but also eating your vegetables by whatever means necessary.  Maybe that means enjoying  fistfuls of kale blended side-by-side with banana, almond milk and honey,  or in my case, transforming raw-shredded beets to something delicious thanks to a food processor, a ton of other smart ingredients and some grapeseed oil.  Whatever your technique or tactic, we all know how important it is to get them in your system, but I’m here to say it can be done via a vehicle that tastes great.  In this case, the praise goes to Louisa Shafia who’s incredible (and surprisingly accessible) new Persian cookbook (The New Persian Kitchen) contained this magic beet burger recipe. Due to the grainy texture from brown rice and lentil, the smokiness of sweet and smoky paprika, and the sweet and fatty taste of raisins and walnuts, this unsavory-sounding meal is really something to be tried. 

As I think about my mostly vegetarian arsenal of dinner-party favorites, I think I may have to add this to the group.  Yes it takes a little bit of pre-cooking (or just go to Trader Joe’s to get premade brown rice and lentils) but it is worth it.  I like to serve them bunless with a dollop of greek yogurt and a healthy pinch of fresh or dried dill. Let me know what you think!

Makes 8 burgers

·         yellow onion

·         tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus extra for searing

·         cup peeled and grated raw beets (approximately 1 small beet)

·         cloves garlic, crushed

·         cup walnuts

·         1/2 cup golden raisins

·         teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

·         1/2 cup cooked green lentils, rinsed and drained

·         Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

·     cups cooked short-grain brown rice or white sushi rice, at room temperature 

·         egg

1.      Slice the onion to a thickness of 1/4 inch. In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it starts to darken and caramelize. Turn down the heat slightly and add the beets along with the garlic, walnuts, raisins, and paprika, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.

2.      Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor and pulse several times until chunky. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture with the lentils, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Replace the food processor without washing and add the rice and egg, and pulse to form a coarse puree. Add the rice mixture to the onion-lentil mixture and mix well with your hands. At this point you can stick in the fridge (for up to a day) and make later. Sometimes useful when you're entertaining and want to do most of the work beforehand!

3.      Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 8 portions. Shape each portion into a patty just under 1 inch thick.

4.      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 5 minutes. Gently flip the burgers and turn down the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, until the burgers have a firm, brown crust. Serve hot with your favorite condiments.

Joanna Andreae