This past Christmas, Matt and I happened upon a little slice of awesomeness in Columbus, Ohio called The Northstar Cafe. It’s the kind of place that would be packed to the gills if it had an outpost in San Francisco. From generous servings of delicious sandwiches and burgers, to soups, fresh fruit smoothies, and massive warm cookies cooling on racks right behind the counter–this is the place I’d take every out of town visitor if I lived in Columbus. But what has given this place almost cult-like status is its vegetarian burger, appropriately deserving of its name: “The Northstar Burger.”
Surprisingly, the most famous dish of the restaurant is a vegetarian burger made with beets, brown rice and black beans. Now, I know that it has taken me a long time to come to terms with beets, and even start to appreciate them. But if there was any one dish that would make a person change their mind about these veggies, this burger would be it. It’s extremely complex in flavor–in part thanks to the assortment of spices (the coriander, particularly) present in the mixture. The beans and rice give it a great texture. And while the next time I make these burgers, I’ll probably try to process the beet mixture in a food processor, and will even consider adding an egg as a binding agent–this adapted recipe is pretty phenomenal.
Don’t be concerned if your burgers fall apart slightly on the skillet–just mold them back together with a spatula. Make sure to let the burgers develop a slight crunchy crust. Oh, and be sure to have on hand some white cheddar, pickled red onions, tomato slices, lettuce, ketchup, and maybe a pickle or two. I used store-bought whole-wheat burger buns at the store, but for the ambitious, homemade brioche buns would likely elevate this burger to an even higher level.
I’m heading off to the East Coast for a business trip tonight (and keeping my fingers crossed that the snow starts melting away and doesn’t come back), but I’m already starting to plan my week of eating in. If you’re joining the Eat In, be sure to make a big batch of these and stick them in the fridge, ready to whip up in no time. I must admit that it’s a little painful to be leaving this glorious San Francisco Spring-like weather for the rough winters of the East, but I’ll be on the lookout for delicious goodies, and will be back here in a flash with a new post.
The Northstar Burger
adapted from the reinvented recipe of the Northstar Cafe burger on The Kitchn
*makes 6 burgers
1/2 cup of brown rice
1 onion, diced small
2 large beets (about 1 pound), diced finely
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 can of organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of parsley, minced
1 teaspoon of coriander, ground finely
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of flour
salt and pepper, to taste
whole-wheat hamburger buns
cheddar cheese slices (New York white, preferably)
1 tomato, thinly sliced
pickled red onion (optional)
*You can save leftover uncooked burger mix in the fridge for up to a week and cook burgers to order. I highly recommend making the full recipe and using the leftovers later in the week.
1. Bring a large amount of water to a boil in a small pot. Add a few pinches of salt and brown rice and reduce to a simmer. Let the rice cook, stirring every once in a while, for about 40 minutes (until slightly over-cooked, but still holding its shape). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for about 5-8 minutes (until onions are softened).
3. Stir in the diced beets, until well-mixed with the onions. Cover the skillet and cook until the beets are completely tender (about 30-40 minutes). Stir occassionally to keep the beets from sticking to the bottom of the skillet. Once the beets are fork-tender, add the garlic, cooking for about 1 minute. Add the cider vinegar to deglaze the pan. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
4. Pour the beans into a large bowl and mash slightly with a fork. Add in the rice, beet mixture, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, parsley, spices, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine and taste. Add additional seasoning to your liking. Stir in the flour and mix well. Shape the mixture into 6 individual patties.
5. Place the hamburger buns in the oven to get toasty and remove once they’re to your liking.
6. Meanwhile, make the burgers. Oil a cast-iron skillet or stovetop grill pan and heat over high.
7. Place the patties on the skillet, cooking for about 2-3 minutes (make sure to allow both sides to develop a bit of a crust). Carefully flip to the other side. If the burgers start to fall apart, just mold them back together using your spatula. Place 1-2 slices of cheese (if using) on top of each patty.
8. Place patties on top of toasted buns. Top with tomato slices, lettuce, pickled onions (if using). Serve with ketchup and mustard.
Musical Pairings: Mark David Ashworth – Bright Is The Ring of Words + The Northstar Burger
Mark David Ashworth is a resident of San Francisco, by way of Austin, who is set to release his latest opus titled, Bright Is the Ring of Words, on February 23rd on the consistently solid Autobus. And Ashworth has outdone himself on this sophomore album: Bright Is the Ring of Words is beautiful, alluring and simply feels orchestral. It is the orchestral quality of this album that makes it a perfect pairing for the veggie burger recipe featured on eating/sf today. The recipe calls for a relatively wide-array of ingredients (beets, onions, beans, rice, Worcester sauce etc.) that blend together harmoniously to create a veggie burger that can please even a devoted omnivore like myself. And like this recipe, Bright Is the Ring of Words is surprising and satisfying. Head over to Musical Pairings @ eating/sf to read the rest. –Matthew