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dinner 10.10: beet, walnut, and goat cheese burger.

Posted Oct 22 2010 9:00am

“predictability.”

beet, walnut, and goat cheese burger; salt and vinegar green beans ; roasted baby potatoes.

Last night, I went out for a Thai dinner at an old college haunt with an old friend.  My choice of meal was predictable: tofu summer rolls for an appetizer, vegetarian coconut curry for an entree, brown rice on the side.  For some reason, I always go the route of the familiar when it comes to Thai.  I think it’s my comfort food.

This banal restaurant ordering is a rarity in my life though, as one of my favorite aspects of dining is the surprise of the menu.  Sure, I will read through the ordering options before I choose to visit a new place, but the kitchens I love most are those that change their offerings often.  That is, of course, one reason I gravitate towards locavore chefs: ingredients change with the seasons, and so their menus must as well.

In a perfect world, every restaurant I visit would be a farm-to-table locale.  Though New York makes it easy to live out that dream, sometimes, like at my Thai meal last night, reality pulls in a different direction.  Sometimes meeting for dinner is more about companionship than the creativity of the food.

On those occasions, the restaurants tend to be a bit more dull, and I can generally predict the existence of a few conventional dishes in their kitchens.  Salmon, prepared in some sort of Asian glaze, with light vegetables as an accompaniment.  Chicken, perhaps with mashed potatoes.  A salad of apples, nuts, gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic – grilled chicken optional.   And a roasted beet salad.

You’ve seen this one before.  Mesclun greens, roasted beets, candied walnuts, creamy goat cheese.  I spot it on menus more often than not.  The combination is tried, it’s true, it tastes good.

I’m sure it wasn’t boring the first time I spotted it, or even the tenth, but at this point in my dining career [yes, career], I’ve seen this one too much.   I never order this salad, because it annoys me.  It is too predictable.

Earlier this week, however, I found myself stocked with the exact ingredients for that humdrum salad.  Refusing to fall prey to predictability, I decided I would simply have to create something new out of the old.

I summoned up my inner culinary artist, and the result was a joy.  I knew the flavors would work – if they didn’t, why would the trio show up on menus with such frequency?  So, a salad became a delicious vegetarian burger, and predictability ended up tasting rather wonderful.

This burger could easily be served up atop greens in a call to the classic dish, or in a bun with mustard in a more traditional burger fashion.  I found myself with an abundance of potatoes that needed eating, and so I served the burger up on its own.  Really, it needs nothing else: all the goodness is tucked inside.

♦♦♦

beet burgers with walnuts and goat cheese [makes 4]

  • 3 c shredded raw beets
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c walnuts
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 1 t thyme
  • couple pinches salt

I like a veggie burger to have some texture, so I pureed about 2/3 of the ingredients and mixed the rest in later.  Instructions for this method are below; if you prefer a smooth burger, just mix in the full amount.

1) In food processor, blend together oats,  thyme, salt, and about 2/3 of the walnuts until a fine powder forms. Add 2 cups of beets; process until smooth.

2) Transfer mixture to large bowl and fold in remaining beets and walnuts. Add 2 oz goat cheese and mix until well distributed.

3) Form 4 patties. Press a few pieces of remaining goat cheese into each patty – this will give you pockets of cheesy delicious in each bite.

4) Heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Cook burger 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.  Alternatively, you could bake them at 350 for 20 minutes.

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