Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Total Lentil Case

I have one cookbook that goes unused. It sits on the shelf of my desk among the frequently perused cookbooks, probably wondering why it never gets any attention. While the Spanish and Chinese cookbooks sit with greasy, dogeared pages and broken spines, this one sits pristine, its spine unbent, pages crisp, and not a grease stain in sight. That was, at least until recently, when in my zeal to expand my culinary horizons I finally picked up the book and gave it a little gastronomic TLC by bookmarking several recipes. It seems I am making up for lost time, since in the last few weeks I have actually come to reference the book, Great Food Fast, from Everyday Food (and Martha Stewart) quite a bit. I don't know why I'd ignored it for so long (at least 2 years), but I'm willing to venture a guess and say that I was turned off by ingredients that were unfamiliar to me. I'm happy to say that this is no longer the case, and Great Food Fast has become a welcome member of my cookbook family.

The book is organized by season, and since I've been making a concerted effort to eat seasonally, I've been referencing it quite a bit. The first recipe to make it from the book to my kitchen was a lentil walnut burger. I absolutely love lentils and often make them as a stew, a salad, or mix 'em with rice, but have never tried using them as a meat or grain substitute. They're incredibly good for you, and particularly important for people like me with iron deficiency. I also love all kinds of nuts, walnuts included, so this really grabbed my attention. The one downside to a few of the recipes and methods in the book is that at times I feel they're a bit overcomplicated. I can't help but be reminded that this is a book from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living when it is suggested that one cook lentils from scratch, only to mash them into a burger 40 minutes later. I found this a ridiculous waste of time and instead used canned lentils, which are actually perfectly firm and ready to use after a rinse under cold water to remove the starchy liquid they're packed in. At 99 cents for a 15 ounce can
(yielding 4 burgers!) they're still ludicrously cheap and worth having in your pantry. Trust me, do not waste time cooking up lentils for this dish--save it for a nice winter stew.

Other than that, I didn't change a thing. The spices were absolutely perfect, smoky and spicy with a hint of middle eastern flair. I'm a sucker for cumin, my favorite spice of all time, so this burger had me at hello. I did make a few changes to the yogurt-cilantro sauce that tops the burgers, switching up the tablespoon of lemon juice for the juice of one whole lime. I also refused to use the low-fat yogurt suggested in the recipe, instead using Greek yogurt so the sauce would be less runny once combined with the lime juice. I put the whole thing on a whole wheat bun with a few crisp leaves of lettuce and had one pretty healthy dinner (for me, anyway). Here's how to make these satisfying burgers with a few minor tweaks from me.

Lentil-Walnut Burgers

1 15 oz can of plain lentils, rinsed and dried
3/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
1 Tbsp olive oil plus, more for grilling
1 egg, beaten

Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce

3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime

1. Combine all of the ingredients for the yogurt cilantro sauce and set aside.

2. Combine walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper flake, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the lentils and a tablespoon of olive oil and pulse until coarsely chopped.

3. Combine lentil mixture and egg in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Form four equal sized patties from the mixture and cook in a non-stick skillet brushed with olive oil until browned on each side. Serve topped with yogurt cilantro sauce. Enjoy!



Alyssa said...

I can't wait to try this recipe out. but where did you find cans of lentils? I tried by the beans and didn't see them. did you mean lentil soup?

Laura said...

Not lentil soup, but plain canned lentils. I found them in the "international" aisle where all the Goya products are. You can also try the healthy food/organic section as well, I've found them there too.

Alyssa said...

yum! so delicious. my husband is normally a hardcore meat eater and but his hamburgers didn't defrost in time and he loved them too. I think next time I might serve them on flatbread or in pitas, like a less fried falafel. or make the itty bitty like sliders.