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!

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