Without a doubt, this is my favorite dinner in the rotation.
At first I was skeptical. I’ve never been a crazy lentil-lover like Edwin. And as I’ve hinted, despite my passion for cooking and baking, my palate isn’t terribly adventurous! When Edwin gets excited and exclaims to me that he found green candied cherries for baking Christmas cookies, I respond with, “bleh!” When my husband suggests to me that I make a fajita for lunch using leftovers, I look at him with horror (I don’t really like eating leftover meat… it’s a weird thing, I know).
So, when searching my favorite, tried and true cookbook for something new and delicious, my eyes only lingered over “Lentil-Walnut Burgers” long enough to conjure images of frozen veggie burgers and strike fear into my heart. The next time I picked the book up I paused over this recipe again, considering it. And so it went like this for a few weeks until I finally found the courage to dive in.
This story also illustrates a fact about me that friends over the years have found enormous pleasure in teasing me about – apparently, if there’s ever something that I react to immediately with vehement hate, chances are in time I’ll grow to be head over heels in love with it. I’ll never admit this to be true, but I can’t exactly say they’re wrong either…
Ghost Baker’s Favorite Dinner, Putting the Spice in Spicy:
I’ve made this recipe several times since the first time, and I’ve even made it for dinner guests. Be warned that my recipe for these little dinner cakes is spicy! I adore spicy food and lots of garlic, but I do like to serve them with milk. I add two more cloves of garlic than the original recipe calls for, as well as more red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
I also love the texture – they should be just a tad crumbly and grainy. The second time I made them I mixed the ingredients a little too much and I think you lose something. The recipe says to use a food processor; however I don’t have one and I don’t think one is absolutely necessary (again, you don’t want to over-blend). It also suggests serving with a yogurt-cilantro sauce, but I don’t do cilantro.
My husband enjoys these burgers with the same accoutrements you would add to a hamburger, I like mine plain on the bun, and one of my dinner guests once asked for cheese on his – so have fun with it! We typically accompany these with a side of Szechuan green beans or couscous.
*Note – I would have taken a photo of all four burgers together with some toppings and sides, but when I turned around I caught a glimpse of my husband running into the other room with a burger in one hand yelling, “Take a photo of THIS!” and stuffing it into his mouth…
Spicy Lentil-Walnut Burgers
adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast
Makes 4 burgers (serves 4), Prep time about 40 min, Cook time about 20 min
3/4 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
5 garlic cloves, minced (or use a garlic press)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large egg
4 Hamburger buns
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place lentils in a small saucepan, cover with an inch of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover, and cook until the lentils are tender but holding their shape, 15 to 20 minutes (it’s important that you don’t overcook them and make lentil-mush). Drain and cool.
Meanwhile, spread the chopped walnuts on a baking sheet to toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. They should be a little darker and very fragrant. Set the walnuts aside to cool.
When the walnuts have cooled I like to chop them a little more finely. Then combine them in a large bowl along with the breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander (if you have whole instead of ground, just put them in a plastic bag and crush with the flat side of a meat tenderizer or even a can), red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon. It should appear finely ground except for some pieces of walnut.
Add the lentils and 1 tablespoons of the oil. Don’t be afraid to be a little rough in your mixing – the contents of the bowl should appear chopped and fully incorporated but with some lentils remaining whole.
Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add it to the lentil mixture. Mix well, but be careful here not to mix it into mush. Divide it into 4 equal-size parts and roll into balls; flatten with the palm of your hand into 3/4-inch-thick patties.
Heat a large nonstick skillet and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the burgers and cook over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, turning carefully with a thin-edged spatula, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Do not turn more frequently or else they will start to crumble. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
Add to your bun and serve!