Smoky Beet Burgers

Smoky Beet Burgers | A Sweet SpoonfulOn January 1, my sisters and mom texted our family chain asking what my word of the year would be. I’d loosely seen people talking about this idea online — the practice of choosing just one word to help guide your intentions and actions — but I hadn’t given it much thought. Didn’t really plan to, in fact; wasn’t even sure I found it that compelling, except… I knew immediately what my word was: pause. I recall in years past scheming up long, ambitious lists of things I wanted to tackle. But this year? No such list. Not that I don’t intend to do some tackling; I just want to carefully consider what those things might be.

Smoky Beet Burgers | A Sweet SpoonfulA few of you may have seen my Instagram post last week in which I mentioned a book I’m reading, Designing Your Life. I’m generally a bit skeptical of books like this, but this one resonated as it talked about approaching your life as if it’s a problem to solve, much like designers approach a project — breaking it down first and then building it back up. If you’re feeling a bit stuck with work or fulfilling personal goals, I highly recommend it. I got to the exercise section of the book where authors Dave Evans and Bill Burnett encourage you to think about your life as a dashboard comprised of Health, Work, Play and Love. They have a visual that looks like the gas gauge in your car and ask you to shade the extent to which you feel each is full and satisfied. Work and Love are pretty self explanatory; Health is the physical but also the spiritual and emotional, and Play is something “just for the joy of it.”

I stopped cold when I came to that explanation. Something just for the joy of it! Imagine that! While I dutifully sat shading in my work gauge all the way full and my love gauge pretty darn full, I paused and realized my Play gauge was virtually empty. Well, that’s unsettling. My mom reminded me that sitting on the floor and reading to Oliver or chasing him around the house making lion noises fit squarely into my Play meter, which is certainly true. But most other things I could think of to possibly plunk into Play (yoga, hikes) had another end goal in mind (fitness, head-clearing); if I was honest with myself, they weren’t just for the joy of it.

Smoky Beet Burgers | A Sweet Spoonful

So on this Monday afternoon, a bright wintry day when the snow is gleaming off the Olympics and there’s promise of leftover birthday cake at home, I’m reminding myself about my word this year. The word I didn’t really set out to choose, but that, as woo woo as it sounds, I think chose me.

Something I did explicitly choose? These beet burgers. They’re all about working a little less and playing more, perhaps in ways you wouldn’t guess. First, the recipe makes 8-10 burgers and the leftovers are great for easy, simple lunches, so you won’t have to spend too much mental energy on meal planning. In our house lately, we have to think about feeding ourselves but also our toddler, so now I really only gravitate to recipes that Oliver can eat as well — that way, I’m not spending all of my time in the kitchen or staying up at night to try to prep things for him to eat the next day. Because that’s making the Work gauge overflow at this point. Less of that. More sitting on the floor eating leftover beet burgers with our hands. Just for the joy of it.

Cook’s Notes: These beet burgers don’t have bread crumbs or any flour to help bind them, relying solely on egg, so they are quite delicate and a bit crumbly. I’ve made them a few times and find that an extra egg helps hold them together so while Luisa calls for just one, I’ve added an extra one to the recipe below. Make them on the smaller side to avoid any chance they’ll fall apart on you, and when flipping them, do so with care. I didn’t mind the slightly crumbly texture — we just slid them right into a bun and everyone was quite happy.

Another note: I happened to be out of green lentils, so I used red lentils and they turned out great. Personally, I find it a little onerous to cook up such a small amount of lentils and rice, so I made a proper pot of each and saved what I didn’t use to make grain bowls or fold into soups or salads throughout the week. Last, do know that grating the beets is a bit messy – I use a box grater and grate them directly onto a cutting board we don’t care about. Enjoy!

Smoky Beet Burgers

Smoky Beet Burgers

  • Yield: 8-10 Burgers
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 35 mins
  • Inactive time: 5 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr

I love serving these vibrant burgers nestled into a seedy bun with sliced avocado, a few greens, and an easy herbed yogurt sauce (rough “recipe” below). You could really take these burgers to the next level with sauteed mushrooms and melted cheese, but as Luisa mentions, you can also eat them more like latkes or falafel. The burger mix itself can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and the cooked burgers stay good for up to four days, covered and refrigerated.

Recipe barely adapted from Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen

Ingredients

For the Burgers:

1 yellow onion
3 tablespoons grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled and grated beets (approximately 1 medium beet)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1/2 cup cooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice or white sushi rice, room temperature
2 eggs
whole grain buns, to serve (optional)
sliced avocado, to serve (optional)
greens, to serve (optional)

For the Herbed Yogurt Sauce:

1/2 cup plain yogurt (I like runnier, European-style best for this)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like chives, dill, or thyme
pinch kosher salt

Instructions

Slice the onion to a thickness of 1/4 inch. In a medium skillet, saute the onions in the oil over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until they start to darken and caramelize. Reduce the heat slightly and add the beets along with the garlic, walnuts, raisins, and paprika, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a food processor and pulse several times until chunky (you still want it a little chunky here). Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and fold in the lentils, salt and pepper.

Replace the food processor (no need to rinse it!), add the rice and eggs, and pulse to form a coarse puree. Scrape the rice mixture into the bowl with the onion-lentil mixture and mix well.

Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 8 -10 portions just under 1-inch thick.

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. Very 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.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, herbs and salt. Serve burgers with your favorite accompaniments – I love sliced avocado, a few greens and a generous spread of yogurt sauce.

Comments

  1. Cara Gilbert-Au

    Megan,
    I love reading your posts! You're insightful and reflective, and always seem to touch on topics that resonate with my life right now. I'm sure, largely in part that our lives are paralleled with raising toddlers. I love this idea of "pause". We spend so much time planning for the day, week, and month, that we forget to to pause and relish in that pause. I'm going to pause with intention more...and surely whip up, or attempt to whip up these tasty sounding burgers as well. Thank you.

    1. megang

      Oh thank you, Cara! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and that it resonated. There is SO much planning to keep things running smoothly, isn't there? Like minor household stuff ... and I find myself go, go, going but looking to do a little less of that, I suppose. I hope you like the burgers if you attempt. They are a little crumbly so be sure to make them small and flip gently (and text with questions :)

  2. Andrea

    These look quite lovely! I have seen lots of different veggie burgers but none with beets! The flavor profile looks warm and delicious.

    1. megang

      Thanks, Andrea! They're really delicious - as good on top of a salad as on a bun. If you end up trying them, let me know what you think!

  3. Pavla

    Doing something just for the joy of it? That's revolutionary! I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old and my time is so largely spoken for that I feel the need to squeeze the most productivity out of moments I have without the kids. I loved this post and will be back to your blog soon! Thanks :)

    1. megang

      Pavla, you have your hands full! I hear you on trying to get as much done as you can in your free moments. For me, that usually doesn't include something just for the joy of it - but trying to change that. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  4. Rebeca

    Someone told me about that book two days ago and it made me realise there isn't much play in my life. I don't have kids, but I'm self-employed, so I find it hard to disconnect from work when I get home. Here's to making a conscious effort to change that!
    The burgers look delicious! I'll be trying them soon, only without raisins because I'm not a fan of them.

    1. megang

      The book is so good, Rebecca. I hope you like it. And gosh, being self employed can be so tough in regards to taking advantage of down time. My husband and I both work for ourselves and try really hard to draw boundaries at home ... but it always seeps in somehow. I think the burgers will be just fine without raisins. I hope you enjoy them!

      1. Rebeca

        The struggle is real, huh? Working for yourself can be so liberating in many ways, but after almost 3 years I'm still working on finding some sort of balance.
        And I made the burgers today! They were lovely, such a great combination of flavours. And leftovers. Always happy about leftovers.

  5. Callum

    A very creative recipe I would never have thought of using beets to make a burger. Callum.

  6. Jess

    Advice on baking the burgers, rather than cooking stovetop?

    1. megang

      Great question, Jess! I haven't tried it, but I'd really like to as I think they tend to crumble the most in the flipping process on the stove. If I were you, I'd lay tin foil down on a baking sheet and oil it well so they don't stick. I'd start at 325 and bake for 15 minutes, then flip. I'd continue baking until they cooked all the way through and browned on both sides. I have a hunch this will probably take 30 minutes or so. 'll try baking them next time, so I can respond more definitively. If you try it first, let me know! Enjoy.

      1. Jess

        Baking time and temp worked great. We tried not stovetop and oven and I preferred the oven! Thanks!!

  7. Brooke

    This speaks to me so much - I have two small kids (9 months and 3.5) and recently started freelancing full-time. I want to spend more time enjoying, but instead, I spend most of my time doing. When I try to relax and just be, I can never shake the feeling that I'm slacking and wasting time. On another, note, I'm really looking forward to making these. I ate unbelievable beet burgers at a restaurant, years ago, and have spent as much time trying to recreate them. I think the raisins might be a clue as to what I was missing.

    1. megang

      Hi, Brooke. TWO little ones! You have your hands full. It is definitely tough juggling the freelance thing with little ones at home. I guess, like anything, there's pros and cons for sure - hopefully you're able to sneak out of the house every once in awhile to get some concentrated work time. If you get around to making the burgers, I hope you like them! Good luck with your new freelancing venture!

  8. Andi

    I was never convinced about beet burgers until I try two different ones while working in San Francisco. They really can be hardy! I've never thought about making them at home, but these sound fantastic. My word of the year is DISCOVER. I'm in a position to discover a lot of new things this year!

    1. megang

      Love it, Andi! Great word of the year. If you end up giving these a try, I hope you like them.

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