As a meat-eater and recent deserter of a world of picky-eating, I experience complete and utter culinary freedom. So when Carlos’ vegan Aunt Anna came to stay with us last weekend and wanted to experience our talents in the kitchen, the list of restrictions made us cower in fear. “Maybe we’ll just buy her some fruit. Or we’ll take her to Oolite. They’ve got some vegan-friendly stuff, right?”
By our second night together, we continued to take the cowardly, easy route and suggested grabbing dinner at an Italian restaurant. It felt like we were taking the lazy approach to veganism. Yeah, pasta works. But I was itching to gain a creative perspective to eating vegan. I wanted to experience their sorcery — things like turning cashews into mayonnaise or squash into cheese whiz. I had heard the stories before, I knew it was possible.
I woke up the next morning feeling inspired and quickly took to the vegan food blogs. I looked at hundreds of possible recipes that could work, but what caught my eye was Post Punk Kitchen’s Quarter Pounder Beet Burger. I found myself intrigued by the leopard-print knife-wielding Isa Moskowitz, who combined words like tempeh cashew queso and grapefruit-sriracha vinaigrette and made me realize that vegan cooking can be pretty damn exciting.
My carnivorous urges were awakened the second I caught glimpse of the finished product on Isa’s website. The image of her phony burger triggered my brain into experiencing a special type of salivating usually reserved for the primal urge to bite into a piece of raw steak.
“This is it. This is what we’re having tonight,” I thought, drunk with vegan power at the mere thought of creating a meatless replica of a hamburger.
As a side, Anna and I both agreed on French fries, but we couldn’t agree on what type of fries. So we got both sweet and regular potato fries. “We can have it all!” we announced.
The massive beet burgers were delicious. Most impressive were how the mixed beets, lentils and brown rice held together and packed in some serious flavor.
Did it taste like a burger? Not exactly. Did it matter? Not at all.
Recipe: Vegan Beet Burger
Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen
- 1 1/4 cups of cooked brown rice (make sure it’s cooled to maintain its stickiness to the rest of the ingredients – I stuck mine in the freezer for 20 minutes)
- 1 cup of cooked brown or green lentils (also make sure these are cooled and drained)
- 1 cup shredded beets
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground fennel seed (I put some fennel seed through my coffee grinder, which will make for some interesting-tasting coffee next time I use it.)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard (I used a spoonful of Dijon mustard)
- 3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons smooth almond butter (I didn’t have any, but Anna used some vegan sorcery to ground some of my almonds with a little bit of grapeseed oil and it worked great)
- 1/2 cup very fine breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil for the pan
Peel the beets and shred them with a grater
Combine the beets, drained lentils and brown rice into a food processor and pulse for about 15 seconds, or until the mixture comes together but still has tons of texture. It’s okay if you still have whole grains of rice in it, as long as it’s moldable and acts like ground meat.
Transfer the ground beetmeat to a bowl and add in the rest of the ingredients. Mix it with your hands until it looked like you murdered something.
Feel free to taste as you’re mixing. I kept slapping Carlos’ hands away thinking he’d get salmonella from touching it until I remembered I wasn’t handling any meat.
Stick the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes while you heat up a cast iron pan on medium heat.
Start forming the patties with your hands. I made really 3 really large patties out of this mixture. Keep them big, which ensures you get the full experience of capturing all the great ingredients in this thing.
Pour a very small amount of oil into the pan (you don’t want to get them too greasy) and cook each one for about 12 minutes, flipping them every once in a while, but not too often. You want to get some char on the outside and warmed up on the inside.
“But how will I know when they’re done?” I asked out loud.
“It doesn’t matter, does it?” Anna said with a smile.
And everything was right in the world.
Best enjoyed with some avocado slices and truffle fries.