If you've had a couple of veggie burgers at restaurants, you'll start to notice a handful of the ingredient standards that go in a patty. There's grated carrots, rice, and maybe oats. Some versions call for portobello mushrooms. And there's almost always a legume, like black beans or chickpeas.
Louisa Shafia, food blogger and cookbook author of The New Persian Kitchen, shared a recipe for sweet and smoky beet burgers that features beets instead.
"I thought it would be fun to put some Persian flavors in the burger," she says. "I learned Iranians love beets. One of the more popular street foods in Iran [during] the winter are these roasted sugar beets. People will go and buy these blazing hot sugar beets and eat them plain."
The recipe also calls for golden raisins and lentils, which Shafia explains are traditional Persian ingredients. The raisins, as it turns out, have another purpose. When she returned to having meat in her diet, she noticed how it can taste sweet. "I feel like the raisins give it balance. It's not just flat and earthy like if you don't have any bursts of sugar."
Shafia says, "For a long time, I was vegan. I still eat mostly vegetarian on a daily basis. I wanted to come up with a veggie burger with a really good texture that didn't just go smoosh when you bit into it."
See also: Guest Dinner at Cortez: Louisa Shafia's The New Persian Kitchen
In her cookbook, Shafia shows the burger topped with yogurt, fresh dill, and Shirazi salad, made with cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion to tie in all the flavors. She says another salad can also be used: "Just something raw and crunchy is nice on there like a cabbage slaw."
Shafia notes that her tamarind date chutney and fig mustard would also go well with the burger. To complete the meal, she says, "I might want to have pickles on the side, fries or roasted potatoes, and a nice seasonal salad."
For refreshment, she recommends pairing the meal with doogh. "It's a Persian drink made with yogurt and water. There's some dried mint in it and you can serve it over ice. There's a little salt in it. It's so delicious."
Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers
From: Louisa Shafia
Serving: 8 patties
1 yellow onion
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus extra for searing
1 cup peeled and grated beets (approximately 1 small beet)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1/2 cup cooked green lentils, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked short-grain ?brown rice or white sushi rice, at room temperature
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.
3. Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 8 portions. Shape each portion into a patty just under an inch thick.
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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.