Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lentil burgers (I love lentils!)

Lentil burger

This delicious-looking burger has a secret.

Do you know what it is?

Lentil burger

Okay, so it's not that much of a secret, since I wrote the answer in the title of this blog post. Burgers! Made of lentils!

I'm going through (what I hope is not just) a phase right now where I absolutely adore lentils and beans. I sift through the food blogosphere searching for new recipes with different spices, textures, and styles. I've been avoiding breads and pastas and trying to eat less meat, and legumes have really stepped up to the plate (no pun intended) when it comes to providing the main protein in the meals I cook at home.

So, when I happened across a recipe for lentil burgers the other day, I knew I had to try it. They've got breadcrumbs in them, and we ate them on buns, so they weren't totally in line with my "cut the bread!" goals, but they were definitely delicious.

First cook up a pot of lentils (you can find my go-to recipe at the end of this post). Then, blend up a bunch of them--I got to try out my new immersion blender, which was exciting. You want them basically pureed, but do leave a few whole lentils in there.

Next, mix in some bread crumbs--fresh if possible--and a lightly beaten egg. Stick this mush in the fridge for at least half an hour.

After it's chilled, mix in some bread crumbs, and you're ready to start!

Fair warning: maybe it's because I pureed them too far, but my lentils were definitely not thick enough for me to "form patties" the way the phrase suggests. All is not lost, however! Here's what I did:

Put some oil in your pan and heat it up. Then, use a measuring cup (I used a 1/4 cup; depends on how big you want your burgers) to dump some lentil-mush into the hot oil. Push the mush around with a spatula until it's patty-shaped:

Making a lentil cheeseburger

This really wasn't difficult! Okay, now you want to let it cook until it browns on the bottom, five minutes or so. Once you've got a bit of a crust, slide the spatula underneath and flip that sucker over:

Making a lentil cheeseburger

The crust on the bottom helps it hold its shape a bit, but I needed to shape it with the spatula again just a little. If you want to add cheese, now's the time to do it! Just lay the cheese over the top and put a lid on the pan. Cook until the cheese is melty.

Ta da!

Lentil burger

I really wanted ketchup and mayo on my burger, but we had no ketchup. So, I ended up mixing mayonnaise with some tomato paste and a bit of the liquid from some chilis in adobo; the sauce was creamy, tangy, and smoky all at the same time!

If you're trying to avoid bready things, do what I did the following day: cook a patty just like before, but slide it on top of some greens instead of onto a bun (I dressed the greens with my improvised sauce):

Lentil burger with cheddar, over mixed greens

In short: easy, delicious lentil burgers. So good, even dedicated beef burger fans will enjoy them--at least, the one I'm married to did!

Anne's Basic Lentils

olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1 cup lentils (I haven't tried this recipe with red lentils, but green, brown, and French green all work)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
  1. Heat a pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is warm, add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until the onion starts to soften and the carrots start to brown, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Check often to see if you need to add more water; if so, add a 1/4 cup at a time.
  3. Once the lentils are done, add salt and pepper to taste. Also, I highly recommend a splash of vinegar (apple cider, red wine, balsamic--whatever is on hand) to brighten it up.
  4. Hooray, lentils!


frederic said...

I have good luck making the Veganomicon's Chickpea Cutlets using lentils. They mash up easier than chickpeas. The end result seems a little denser and has a different texture, but just as delightful. Overall, not too different from the recipe you wrote about but the addition of vital wheat gluten to the recipe holds things together well.

erik.ellestad said...

Yeah, the challenge with legume and grain "burgers" is always controlling moisture.

Those look pretty darn tasty, though!

erik.ellestad said...

The other thing I always want is a little bit of the toothsomeness of meat, otherwise there isn't a lot of textural variety to legume burgers.

I do this some times by grating some of the vegetables or by using a combination of firmer fleshed mushrooms and nuts.

Ayn said...

Thanks for the comments!

Erik, I know what you mean about wanting some textural variety. I'm thinking about cooking the carrots separately and adding them after pureeing the legumes...