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Marc Brazeau | Editor | Food and Farm Discussion Lab | @eatcookwrite
After attending a talk at Powell’s books by author Liz Carlisle and farmer David Oien about their book, Lentil Underground, I decided that I needed a way to ratchet my lentil consumption up another notch. They had a great message about how focusing too much on localism, cut people off from some truly sustainable crops.
If you are trying to eat nutritiously and sustainably, lentils have a lot going for them. They are hardy and do well in varying climates. They are legumes, so they deliver plenty of protein and they fix their own nitrogen. That means they don’t require synthetic fertilizer. It also means that they work really well in diverse crops rotations, providing nitrogen for the crops that follow them. Lentils face low pest pressure so they don’t require much in the way of pesticides either. These are some of the reasons they do well in organic systems, like Oien’s. Nutritionally, they are a complete protein, high in fiber, low in glycemic load, and chock full of minerals and B vitamins. Their rich, earthy, neutral flavor takes on spices and aromatics really well.
I already use lentils a lot in soups and stews, I’ve even added lentils to a turkey meatloaf. But I wanted to use lentils to swap out some of the beef in my diet and I decided to see if I could come up with a lentil burger that was better than a hamburger.
It took me a while to get around to it, but only two iterations to get a burger that I’m happy with. After cooking up a batch of lentils in the crockpot, I combine them with oats and eggs to pull it all together. Then I form them into patties and par bake to set the egg. This makes it really easy to throw a burger in the skillet (or even in the microwave). The just cooked through lentils and the oats combine for really nice burger texture. The flavor is richer and deeper than you average quarter pounder.
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I started by making a big batch of caramelized onions in the morning and then scooping out two thirds and making the lentils in the already hot crockpot (No need to clean it twice. Plus a lot of the energy use in a crockpot is getting it hot in the first place.)
- 1 lb Lentils, dried
- 2 qts Water or Broth
- 1/2 cup Caramelized Onions
- 2 TB Garlic fresh, chopped
- 2 TB Tomato Paste
- 1 TB Salt
- 4 Eggs beaten
- 1 cup Oats rolled
- 2 TB Fresh Herbs
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 1 TB Salt
- 1 TB Black Pepper, cracked
Lentils take 4 or 5 hours in a crockpot. When they are done, chill them overnight.
The next day, add the rest of the ingredients and form the mixture into patties on greased baking sheets. I got two dozen patties. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes.
You can use beef broth, vegetable broth, mushroom broth, chicken broth or just water. I used some cheap onion soup mix and water because I was too was broke to buy broth and I didn’t feel like making vegetable broth from the scrap bag in the freezer. I also wanted to make the point that going ghetto is fine too. If you roast the bones and make proper stock, that’s great, I do too. But if you don’t have the time or energy, don’t feel guilty about cutting a few corners, this recipe is already labor intensive as it is.
Cook the lentils until all the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are soft, but still hold their shape. Don’t let them get mushy. Let them cool over night.
Bake at 325 for 15 minutes
Cool and stack in plasticware to store. Grill them up in an iron skillet (or pop them in the micorwave, you lazy bitch.)
This isn’t going to replace the few really top notch medium rare burgers that I eat in the course of a year, but as an everyday sandwich, it’s as good or better than any decent quarter pounder that I’ve ever had.