Beet Burgers

Okay, this one is admittedly complicated, but so yummy! It is worth the time, if you make enough to freeze for next time. An adaptation of the veggie burger served at Northstar Café in Columbus, Ohio, Education Coordinator Cait cites this recipe as her favorite veggie burger of all time! The measurements below make six servings, but the recipe is easy to multiply and the raw patties freeze well for later.

1 pound beets
½ cup brown rice, uncooked
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cans black beans
¼ cup prunes, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons smoked paprika, to taste
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg
Salt & pepper
Hamburger buns
Thinly-sliced cheese
Greens, tomatoes, onions for dressing

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 50-60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. While the beets roast, bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the rice. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the rice until it’s a bit over-cooked but firm, about 35-40 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside to cool.
3. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir the onions every minute or so, cooking until they are golden and slightly charred around the edges. Lower the heat if onions begin to burn. 
4. Add the garlic and cook for half a minute, until fragrant. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark, sticky crust that has begun to form on the bottom of the pan. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
5. Place the oats in the food processor and process until they become like flour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
6. Drain and rinse one can of beans and transfer them to the food processor. Toss the prunes on top. Pulse until the beans are roughly chopped – about 8-10 pulses. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl. Drain and rinse another can of beans and add them whole to the mixing bowl.
7. Scrape the skins from the cooled beets. Grate the peeled beets using the largest holes on the grater. Transfer the gratings to a strainer and squeeze as much liquid from them as possible. 
8. Transfer the beets, cooked rice, and sautéed onion mix to the large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil, brown mustard, 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and thyme over the top of the mixture. Mix all ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt, pepper & any additional spices to taste. Finally, add the oatmeal flour and egg. Mix until you can no longer see any dry oatmeal or egg.
9. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (This mixture will keep in the fridge for up to three days before cooking.)
10. To shape the burgers, scoop up a scant cup of the mix and shape it between your hands into a  thick patty. The recipe should make six large patties.
11. To cook the burgers, heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Transfer the patties to the pan, as many as will fit without crowding. Cook the patties for 2 minutes, then flip. The cooked side should form a nice crust. Cook for another 2 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes, until the patties are warmed through. Add the cheese during the last minute of cooking.

Serve these patties on soft buns with fresh greens, sliced heirloom tomatoes and whatever else you like on your burgers!