Sometimes when things get a little tough, you need a bit of a break and a breather. You need to stop for a second, calm down and relax, breathe in and then reevaluate your environment. This is exactly what I did this week just to calm my nerves and ultimately hope for the best. Fortunately, I got to unwind a little bit when we decided to take a walk down to the national monument to view the annual cherry blossoms. The blossoms are in full bloom this week and people from all over are here for the festival in D.C. It's definitely crowded here! The flowers are a light pretty pink or white though I honestly have to admit that don't think I have ever smelled any sort of scent from them. Nevertheless, they are gorgeous to look at and cheered me up. Apparently you cook quite a few things with the blossoms, there is a plum vinegar pickled cherry blossom flowers/Sakura preserve available which means that I've got a new ingredient to my list. Now, if only I can get my hands on some!
Moving away from something lightly pink to something a little darker and red, beets! People either love them or hate them, I love beets but hate turnips. A few years ago, we tried an amazing beet tartare dish at a pop-up restaurant somewhere in our Chinatown area and I made a mental note to make one at some point. Though I did end up finding two delicious sounding recipes at the NY Times, one with horseradish and another with salmon, I still haven't made any because during my quest for beet tartare recipes, I got inspired by a delicious looking beet burger recipe at Sara Forte's beautiful blog, the Sprouted Kitchen. I based my version of the burger patty on the Indian lamb kebab recipe that I frequently use at home. The heat and spiciness brought by the chili and seasonings complement the sweetness of the beets in these patties and then there's a refreshing chilled chili herbed-yogurt sauce helps to bring it all together in the bun. Since beets have a large amount of liquid inside them, I used the roasting method from the NY Times tartare recipes to reduce their water content before they could be blended with the other ingredients. I then used a bit of toasted oat bran along with an egg as a binding agent. The trick with using oat bran is to let it sit with ground beet mixture for at least an hour (I've left it overnight too) to absorb any other liquids in the mixture. The bran also gives a nice toasty crisp coating to the burger patties once they are seared.
My chili herbed yogurt sauce is loosely inspired by Sara's version and also by the way Indian homes make their yogurt salads or raitas. I like my raita's a little thicker and so I tend to use Greek yogurt which works out well as a sauce/dressing in this burger. I was happily surprised as to how delicious the combination of the goat cheese and yogurt tasted, the extra creaminess of the goat cheese gave the sauce, a nice smooth and buttery flavor. Alternatively, if you don't want the bread, you can also do what I do with the rest of the burger patties, serve and eat them as kebabs with a meal along with the yogurt sauce on the side. Either way these turned out to be our new favorite at home and I think we will have a repeat pretty soon!
indian-style beet burgers
yields: about 12 burgers
6 medium sized-beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup toasted oat-bran
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, freshly grated
2 teaspoons ginger root, freshly grated
1 thai chili pepper, chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh whole cilantro leaves
1 medium sized red onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1/4 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons goat cheese, softened to room-temperature
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 thai chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for frying
fresh tomatoes, sliced
boston lettuce, fresh
bunch of cote du mache leaves, fresh or any other microgreens
any type of burger buns you love
1. Heat the oven to 400F. Trim the ends of the beets and scrub them under running water. With your hands, massage the beets with the olive oil and place them in a baking pan with about 1/2 cup of water. Bake the beets in the oven for one hour until they are tender when tested with the prongs of a fork. Remove the beets from the oven and let them cool for at least another hour. (This helps to shrink the skin on the beets and makes it easier to peel). Once the beets are cooled, peel and discard the skin and quarter the beets into large chunks.
2. Add the beets, oat bran, egg, garlic, ginger, thai chili pepper, cilantro, onion, garam masala, cayenne, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Cover and pulse until the beets and the rest of the ingredients are finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer the mix into a bowl, cover and leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour. (At this stage you can leave the burger mix in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before frying them).
3. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet on a medium-high flame. Take about 3-4 tablespoons of the beet mixture in your hands and assemble into a burger patty. Place the patty onto the hot pan, reduce the flame to low and cook patty for about 15 minutes on each side, until crisp. (The reason for slow-cooking the burger patty is to cook the patty slowly to avoid burning and also to ensure that any excess liquid inside the patty evaporates). Transfer the patty to a clean paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
4. For the yogurt sauce, mix the yogurt, goat cheese, cilantro, mint, cayenne, chili, and lemon juice with a fork in a medium-size mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
5. To assemble the burger. Slice and lightly toast the buns. Spread a little yogurt sauce on each side of the bun. On the lower half of the sliced bun, assemble the lettuce, a slice of tomato, cote du mache, the burger patty, a generous dollop of yogurt sauce, and another lettuce leaf. Cover the burger with other half of the bun and insert a toothpick through the center of the burger. Serve immediately.