The first time we went to Portland, we hiked, biked, and drank and ate our way around the city and developed a serious crush on the Pacific Northwest. It was July, a perfect time to leave overheated Florida for lush Oregon.
The first place we went was Deschutes Brewery. We ordered beers immediately because a drink with lunch means it's vacation. We often order a vegetarian meal when we go out to eat because those dishes are often more interesting than the meaty ones. This was never more true than the day we ordered the Deschutes beet burger. It was so good, we went back to the brewery for a second time that trip to order it again.
Once home, we tried to re-create the burger several times, but each attempt flopped. Some burgers fell apart as they cooked. Others just didn't taste as good.
Finally, now, three years after that trip and that first perfect beet burger, we feel as though we've struck gold. We finally found a homemade version that measures up to our romanticized memories.
The winning recipe for these sweet and smoky burgers (slightly sweet from raisins and beets, smoky from paprika) comes from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. I couldn't resist the book that won Food52's 2014 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks after reading a Bon Appetit article on Persian cooking that sparked my interest.
Such a burger deserves a special bun so we decided to make our own. We had already used Joy the Baker's recipe (joythebaker.com) to make hot dog buns so we just tweaked her recipe a little to make burger buns. It's a summer staple.
Making your own burger buns is easy. Promise. Kneading is no big deal, and most of the time is spent letting the dough rest and rise. The dough will grow quite a bit in size so make sure to use a large bowl. At the end of the first rise in the bowl, the dough had risen above the top of the bowl, pushing the tea towel up slightly. Go yeast.
Feel free to prepare the burger mixture a day ahead and store in the fridge. This recipe also calls for several cooked ingredients (lentils, rice, walnuts) that can be made ahead as well. The beet burgers can be served on a bun or you can think of it as falafel and serve with a salad. We topped the burgers with dill, chopped tomato and thick yogurt whipped with ground cumin and fresh mint.
Ileana Morales is a writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with fiance Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. Contact her at [email protected]