One of my many New Year’s Resolutions: blog more.
As you may have guessed with the disappearance of more juice recipes last month, that whole cleanse thing really didn’t last more than three days. On what would have been Day 4, we headed home for the holidays and…yeah…holiday food. On the bright side: a three-day cleanse actually felt really good, and after three days I was starving and salivating at the thought of a cheeseburger (a sure sign that I need to eat a big, protein-y meal). The holidays were wonderful and full of wonderful food – I made a middle eastern-themed Christmas dinner because I didn’t want to try to do gluten-, dairy-, soy-, and corn-free versions of traditional American Christmas fare. I’ve found it’s much easier and often tastier to just find recipes for cuisine that’s already free of whatever allergen you’re accommodating than it is to substitute and improvise. Christmas dinner was (with links to some of the recipes, should you want to check them out): lamb (for the meat-eaters), eggplant (without the cous cous in the recipe), quinoa tabbouleh, gluten- and dairy-free pita bread (amazing – you must try this recipe!), cucumber salad, roast potatoes, hummus, and red lentils. A little overboard? Yes. Totally worth five hours in the kitchen? Absolutely.
After Christmas, Boyfriend and I went to New York City and then to Boston for a conference he had to attend. I’d never been to NYC before and since big American cities tend to freak me out, I was a little nervous. As it happened, I fell in love with NYC before I got out of the cab from the airport. NYC is totally unlike any other city I’ve visited, in ways that I can’t even put my finger on. It just felt comfortable and thoroughly exciting. My favorite part was the food. Oh my god, the food! I always love the food in big cities – my current home is kind of an unfortunate place to be a foodie, and I love getting away to places where awesome food is celebrated and appreciated. I’ve never seen anything like New York City – not even Rome or Paris, which were my previous standards for outstanding food cities. I didn’t try to avoid meat and eggs while I was there because I just wanted to experience the hell out of the food in NYC, and it was well worth it. We had Japanese food, American Southwest fusion, Chinese (the only bad meal we had), Thai, brunch at a dairy-free health conscious restaurant that actually offered omelettes with soy cheese (a first, for me), one unfortunate lunch at Dunkin’ Donuts because we got lost in Harlem and were starving and couldn’t find anything else (tip: don’t get lost in Harlem), Asian-fusion (delicious until I accidentally got a dried chili pepper in my mouth and spent ten minutes thinking I was going to die from the pain), Indian, and Mexican. The winner, however, was a restaurant in midtown Manhattan called Xai Xai – we walked by it while looking for a Thai restaurant, and it looked so nice that we abandoned the plan for Thai food. It was a South African restaurant, serving small plates/tapas and lots of wine. Best meal I’ve had in a very long time.
But now I’m back…in the land of “You want fresh produce in January? Here’s a potato.” Yay. I was so depressed about coming back that I didn’t really cook anything for over a week after getting back. I just put rice in the rice cooker and called it good. A lot of rice and one soy-cheese pizza later, I decided yesterday that it was time to start cooking again. I needed something with a lot of protein after all the rice and other starches one inevitably consumes while trying to avoid cooking.
I went with lentil-veggie burgers. I’ve never made lentil-veggie burgers before, nor did I have a recipe. Classic me – “throw it all in there with some garlic, it’ll be great!” It worked quite well, although I had to make the burgers a little smaller so they didn’t fall apart, so they kind of look like falafel. This recipe is vegan and gluten-free (although the tahini I used had been gluten contaminated in the past, so mine weren’t technically gluten-free, but if you use all safe, GF products you’ll be fine).
- 1 cup (uncooked) brown lentils
- 2 large carrots
- 1 bell pepper (any color – I used red)
- 1/2 large yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic (or more or less, to taste)
- 1 can black olives
- 2-3 stalks celery (depending on size)
- the equivalent of about 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped (the mushrooms I had were huge)
- 2 Tbsp. ground chia seeds + 6 Tbsp. water
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
- salt, to taste
- about 3 Tbsp. coconut flour
- Cook the lentils in 2 cups of water in a covered pot. I also added some red wine to mine, because I love the taste it gives lentils, but that’s optional. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and stir occasionally to make sure they’re not sticking to the pan.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the chia seeds. The chia seeds here act like eggs in many veggie burger recipes – as a binder. It would probably work with whole chia seeds, but just in case I ground mine first using a mortar and pestle (obviously this would be hard if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, which most people probably don’t – don’t worry about it). Place the seeds in a bowl and stir in 6 Tbsp. of water, then let sit. The general rule for using chia or flax seeds in place of eggs in vegan recipes is 1 Tbsp. seeds to 3 Tbsp. water = 1 egg. So, if you’re reading this and you eat eggs, you can use 2 eggs instead if you like. Let the chia seeds sit in the water while you prepare everything else. They will form a weird, gelatinous blob (it reminds me of ectoplasm in Ghostbusters).
- Chop all the veggies. They don’t have to be nicely or evenly chopped, you’re going to blend everything in a food processor later on.
- Heat about 1 Tbsp. of any kind of oil in a large frying pan (I used sesame oil for the flavor, but any kind will work – coconut oil would be great). Add all of the veggies, including olives, to the pan at once, then add the tahini, cayenne, fenugreek, salt, and turmeric. Cook on medium heat for no more than 5 minutes, stirring often (you don’t want the vegetables to get too soft – the onions should still look pretty raw when you’re done).
- Transfer the veggies to either a food processor, or if you have an immersion blender (which I now do, courtesy of my aunt for Christmas!), wait until the lentils are done and then add the veggies to the lentil pot or (or if that’s too small, put it all in a large bowl). Blend to desired texture. I was using my immersion blender for the first time and was having a little too much fun, so my lentil burgers are a little over-blended, perhaps. A few bigger pieces of veggies might be good.
- To cook the burgers, form into patties using your hands. Cook in a frying pan with some oil (I used coconut oil – very tasty) on medium-low heat. They take awhile to cook through, and if the heat is too high the outside will just burn before the inside is done. Try to only cook each side once, too much flipping will make them break.
***Edit*** I baked the rest of the mix for these a couple days later, at 375F for about 15 minutes on each side, and that was way better than pan-frying them!
- Eat them while they’re hot! I put mine on a bed of spicy sprouts and cucumbers, with dill pickle relish. Delicious! They would be great as a regular burger in a bun or in a pita or between bread slices