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Beet Burger Caprese Stacks

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Yesterday Matt and I spent part of our Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Smorgasburg and outdoor market. We were between meals and trying to save our appetites for our dinner at Nitehawk Cinema so we decided to get an innocent little snack. Meat-eater-Matt was sweet enough to agree to a beet burger slider from Chickpea and Olive, a vegan NYC pop-up diner specializing in burgers and sandwiches. The delightful beet burger slider was topped with vegan cheddar, ranch sauce, and eggplant “bacon”. Oh my gosh, it was just so good. The burger was moist, substantial, and flavorful, a hard trifecta to achieve with a vegan veggie burger patty. I only wish we had opted for the bigger size.

Come Sunday, I was itching to make a beet burger of my own. I decided to come up with a gluten-free and vegan Italian-style patty flavored with balsamic vinegar and fennel seed. The patty was then layered with crisp lettuce, seasoned tomato, sweet basil, and fresh mozzarella cheese. I couldn’t help but use real cheese for this recipe because I love cheese an unhealthy amount, but the vegan patty turned out to be so moist and delicious, the cheese really isn’t necessary.

I designed this dish to be light, healthy and easy. Most beet burgers are made with freshly grated and/or roasted beets. However, I just used canned beets that I completely drained. Brown rice and cornmeal are the gluten-free binders in this recipe, and to make this recipe even easier, I used brown rice leftover from last week’s Chinese takeout. To make the dish more substantial, you could obviously use a bun, but I like the lightness of a lettuce leaf wrap, especially after how much I ate yesterday. The two left over patties might need to be layered on English muffins with some balsamic-mayo as a naughty extra topping. Stay tuned for that one.
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Balsamic Beet Burgers with Mozzarella and Basil

Serves: 4    Start to Finish: about 45 minutes

Ingredients:

For Burger Patty
1 TBS Olive Oil (plus more for frying burgers)
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and minced
1 small White Onion, diced (approx. 1 cup)
1/2 tsp Fennel Seed
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flake
Kosher Salt, fine grain
1 15-oz canned Beets, drained completely
1 15-oz can Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked Brown Rice, mine was leftover, allow 30 minutes extra time if cooking rice
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 cup Cornmeal
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
For Assembly
4 large Lettuce Leaves
4-8 slices fresh Tomato
15-20 whole Basil Leaves
1 cup grated Fresh Mozzarella

To Make:

Heat 1 TBS Oil and minced Garlic in a skillet over medium heat. When garlic begins to sizzle, cook for about 45 seconds. Add diced onion, fennel seed, red pepper flake, and 1/4 tsp salt to pan. Toss occasionally. After about 6-8 minutes, when onions are softened and translucent, remove from heat.

In a food processor add beets, beans, rice, vinegar, and the onion mixture. Pulse until ingredients start to come together. Careful not to process too long. You want texture, not a paste. I pulsed about 25 times, stopping twice to scrape ingredients from the sides and combine.

Transfer beat mixture to a mixing bowl. Add mustard and cornmeal. Stir to combine. Form mixture into 4 patties.

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the patties to the pan. Cook 3-4 minutes per side. When the burgers are finished, place on a sheet pan and top each patty with mozzarella. Broil until cheese is melty and starting to brown.

Time to assemble. Lay out 4 lettuce leaves. Top each leaf with 1 or 2 tomato slices. Season with salt. Top tomato slices with basil leaves. Add beet patty. Garnish with more basil. (I also added parmesan cheese on top because I had it in the fridge.)

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