Lentil Burgers and “Meat”balls

I really have no idea why it took me so long to make lentil burgers. Its not that I haven’t heard of the idea (or rather, bean burgers in general). But for some reason, I just didn’t get to it. Until now. And there is no turning back. They were so incredibly easy, and so tasty! I made them twice in three days.

Before you start cringing and thinking “how could lentils ever have the same texture/flavor as a real burger!?” just stop yourself. I’m not into those meat replacement products floating around. At times they can be just as bad as any other processed non-vegan food! So just try and think of this as a new and exciting way to incorporate beans and nuts into your diet, with its own unique flavor and satisfaction value. I should say ways, because we ate these in several different shapes and entirely different dishes.

The first night, I made parsnip and carrot fries to go with the patties (and topped them with garden baby lettuce, onion, and the yogurt cilantro sauce – a bunless burger). If you’ve never had a parsnip, you should go find some, preferably locally grown. They roast up beautifully, and have a dense not-too-sweet flavor that I really like. (I can’t believe I hadn’t tried them til now, either!)

A few nights later, I formed the lentil mixture into balls, baked them, and served them on top of pasta (with leftover cauliflower, mushrooms, and red peppers simmered in arrabiata sauce – YUM). I made a double batch, so the next night we chopped the meatballs in pieces and put them on a chef salad. How’s that for a versatile recipe??

Lentil-walnut Burgers (original recipe found here)
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3-1 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup lentils, cooked, drained, and cooled
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg

Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce:
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

To cook lentils, combine 1 cup dry lentils with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25-30 minutes.

In a food processor, combine walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until finely ground. Add lentils and 1 tablespoon oil; pulse until coarsely chopped (some lentils should remain whole). If it seems too wet, add in the rest of the breadcrumbs.

In a large bowl, whisk egg. Add lentil mixture; mix well. Divide into 4 equal-size parts; roll into balls, and flatten with the palm of your hand into 3/4-inch-thick patties.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add burgers; cook over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, turning gently with a thin-edged spatula, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, cilantro, and lemon; season with salt and pepper. Assemble burgers and top with yogurt sauce, sliced red onion, tomato, and lettuce.

To make meatballs, follow same recipe except substitute basil and parsley for the cumin and coriander. Form the mixture into balls, and bake on a cookie sheet at 375 for 20-25 minutes, turning once. (I used 1/2 c cashews + 1/4 c walnuts) Serve on pasta with sauce, in a sandwich, or however you best like meatballs!

Sweet Potato Hash

Well, its been a week now since my birthday challenge ended. And I have to say – I miss it a little bit! There was something dizzying about unlimited options in what I could eat last week, and I took full advantage. The Burger Bus, chocolate chip cookies, half and half in my coffee…. it was almost overwhelming. I think I’ve realized finally that I’m a person who needs a few rules in my life to help me find balance. I’m not sure exactly what those rules will be, but I’m working on figuring it out.

This last month Santa Barbara has been blessed with gorgeous, amazing, mostly warm weather. It feels like the summer we never had in 2010 (instead we got days and days of fog). I do feel badly for the rest of the country struggling with such cold. But I’m really, really happy in this weather! All of my seed starts are coming along nicely, and I should be able to plant in the next few weeks. Wildflowers are blooming in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, and the birds are notching up their songs (and providing lots of amusement in my yard. Scrub jay burying a peanut = case in point).

One of my favorite recent dinners (or breakfasts) is this sweet potato hash. I roast up an assortment of root vegetables, then saute greens and garlic. I top the whole mess with a fried egg or two. I find it to be completely satisfying at any time of day, and it again has those elements of flexibility I love so much! Bell peppers are a great addition, or mushrooms. Just make sure to add them in at the right time so they get their proper cooking time. This is particularly satisfying after a long run, or an afternoon spent climbing and scrambling at The Playground.

Sweet Potato Hash with Greens and Eggs

Assortment of root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, onions, etc), chopped into 1/2″ pieces

1-2 big handfuls of greens – fresh broccoli, kale, chard, asparagus, etc, chopped into 1/2-1″  ribbons

1-3 cloves garlic, chopped small

1-4 eggs (depends on how many people you’re serving and how many everyone wants)

Coat the root vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 375 oven for 35-50 minutes (depends on how many vegetables you have)

Once they finish, saute your greens and garlic til bright green. Remove from pan, and fry your eggs (or poach if you like them that way).

Serve with root vegetables on the bottom, then a layer of greens, with eggs on top. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh pepper on top to taste.

“Creamy” Spaghetti Squash

Last week I tried out a recipe for creamy kale and millet that knocked my socks off, no kidding! The sauce was glorious, and I loved the creaminess of it. It uses nutritional yeast, tahini, cashews and lemon to give it a thick tangy flavor. On first taste, Matt could not believe it wasn’t cheese. I think I liked it even better than most cheese sauces, because it doesn’t weigh you down. I couldn’t even get a photo of it, we ate it so quickly.

Well on Sunday, I was tired of getting a guilt trip every time I passed one of the numerous spaghetti squashes we still have from last summer. So I decided to bake one up. And then was inspired to concoct a creamy dish using that same sauce, but incorporating asparagus and broccoli in addition to the kale. And to top it all off – the roasted carrots, rutabega and parsnips that I already had going in the oven.

Sound like a lot? It is definitely the product of a late Sunday afternoon at home. But its also a recipe that is flexible and could be done on a weeknight with a bit of planning (especially if you leave out the root vegetables). The spaghetti squash can be done ahead of time, and usually a bigger one will last us through at least two meals.

“Creamy” Spaghetti Squash and Vegetables

*The root vegetables are definitely not a required element to this dish. But I liked the crisp texture they added.

Assortment of root vegetables (carrots, rutabega, turnip, parsnip, beet, potato, etc), chopped into 1/2″ dice

Spaghetti squash, split in half and seeds scooped out

1/2 bunch kale, cut into 1/2″ slivers

approx. 1/2 head broccoli, cut into small florets

1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped into similar size pieces

Creamy sauce:

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small clove of organic garlic
1 cup water
3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil (I bet olive oil would be a fine substitute)
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp  sea salt
3 Tbsp organic tahini
1/2 cup organic cashews, soaked (I did not soak mine)

Toss the root vegetables in olive oil, and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes (check after 30). Put the spaghetti squash in a brownie pan, cut side down. Bake alongside the vegetables for 45 min- 1 hr. Once its done, take out to cool for a few minutes, then scrape out the strands.

Put all the sauce ingredients into a blender to blend. Saute the vegetables in a saucepan for a few minutes (put in asparagus and broccoli first, then the kale in the last 2-3 minutes) until bright green. Put into a big bowl. Heat the sauce in the same saucepan for 2-4 minutes until it begins to thicken. Mix in the with the vegetables. Add in the spaghetti squash (I used almost all of the squash) to desired coating. Top each serving with some of the roasted root vegetables and a sprinkling of fresh pepper.