As much as we might like to fast forward to spring and the warm-weather produce that comes with it, let’s face it: in most of the country, we are still deep in Beet Season. Most of what we have to choose from at the farmer’s market right now is root vegetables, but despite the long winter months, I’m still enjoying them. If you’re suffering from root vegetable fatigue, this recipe is a good antidote.
As with many of my recipes, this one came about because I had an abundance of the main ingredient — in this case, beets — sitting in my fridge. I’d already steamed and mashed beets in the previous month, so now what? I’m a big fan of grain and bean cakes, because they endow their ingredients with elegance and a satisfying heft, much more so than when they appear as a pile of beans or rice on a plate. I decided to try the same approach with a vegetable, and the experiment worked.
These cakes are meaty and rich with a smokey, caramelized flavor. They taste of the onions and spices as much as they do of beets, leading me to believe that the recipe would lend itself to other root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, or turnips. The recipe calls for canola oil instead of my usual olive oil because of the extended pan searing time and canola’s higher flashpoint, but you could use olive oil for cooking the rice and browning the onions.
I enjoyed the cakes with a dollop of crème fraîche, but a spoonful of cranberry relish or a dash of lemon juice will brighten the flavors even more. For a toothsome treat, layer 2 cakes inside of a toasted burger bun with thinly sliced red onion, relish, ketchup, and your favorite burger fixin’s.
Makes 8 cakes
½ cup brown rice
1 cup water
1 onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 large beet, grated
Place brown rice, water, a dash of oil and a dash of salt in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
Heat a sautée pan over high heat and add a few tablespoons of oil, followed by the onions. After the first minute, reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are caramelized, stirring often, 5-7 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt, and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and set aside.
Place the rice, onions, and 1 cup of the beets in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture forms a thick puree, about a minute. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
Combine the puree with the remaining beets, mixing thoroughly with your hands. Use a 1/3-cup measure to divide the dough into 8 balls, and shape the balls into patties. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add a little oil and cook the cakes for 4-5 minutes on each side, until they form a light crust. Season each side with a little salt as they cook. Serve hot.