Lentil Burgers

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dinners around here have been become a bit more, "family friendly," so to speak, which in reality translates to, a bit more bland. I swore I would never be the parent making one meal for the parents and an entirely separate meal for the kids, but now that I am a parent myself, I realize how a two meal (or more) evening comes about. By dinnertime it is about getting exhausted parents (and kids) through the rest of the day, and most often it is not worth fighting a child of any age to get them to eat their peas and carrots. At the same time, parents tire of eating grilled cheese sandwiches (even thought they can be quite good) and so the birth of multiple meals emerges. Or so this is what I imagines happens in other households.

Each night I cook at home my goal is to provide a flavorful, healthy meal with a variety of textures, nutrients and choices for the soon-to-be toddler that both the husband and myself will like. Some nights the baby slurps down the smoothie, gobbles up the pasta and even tolerates the veggies if they are covered in enough goat cheese. On those nights I am elated. Other night, many other nights, when I have no other option but to cave and bring out the applesauce, string cheese and raisins just to get something in the baby's tummy and make it through the end of the meal, I feel a bit defeated. Nevertheless, I am still committed to the idea of the family meal. Of course we all have our likes and dislikes and preferences on certain days, so making everyone happy all the time is not always going to be reality. And that is okay. There will be back-up favorites in the fridge and the pantry on those nights because eating should be pleasurable and mealtimes should not be dreaded, no matter the age. And when you aren't old enough to articulate your likes and dislikes, a simple shake of the head of the head must be respected in order to make dinnertime just that.

 My point here, with this long introduction, is that in hopes to make a "family meal," I have had to make a few adjustments and changes to what I would have wanted to make for dinner had I not had to consider a newbie eater and his newbie tastebuds. That's not to say that every meal is dumbed down, so to speak, but rather I have one more person's tastes to consider when meal planning. I am trying different things and making small changes to old recipes that I think (hope and pray) will have a mass appeal. The little boy may not love his carrots, but he will tolerate peas, if they are freshly chucked and lightly sauteed. He won't have anything to do with the cherry tomatoes but he loves the organic heirloom kind, and strawberries are best when they are the French variety from Chino farms. But of course. I am beginning to realize that I don't have serve "kid food" in order to get the kid to eat. (I mean he did eat two pieces of pizza with wild mushrooms, truffle oil and Fontina last weekend.) Rather, I need to find the foods and flavors that he loves to make mealtimes both enjoyable and well rounded.

So, that's the long story to how my desire to make Lentil Walnut Burgers with Dill Goat Cheese Spread, Avocado and Caramelized Onions turned out to be Lentil Burgers with Avocado, Cheddar and Baby Greens. So if you want to make the more exotic of the two, the recipe (that was featured on Mon Petit Plat) is below. If you want to make a less exotic, yet equally delicious and perhaps a bit more "family friendly" version, then you can remove the walnuts and add a bit more breadcrumbs, forgo the goat cheese dill sauce and caramelized onions and melt sharp cheddar cheese on the patties instead. Of course you can add whatever toppings you prefer as these burgers are very versatile. They big key with these burgers is to get really soft and fresh hamburger buns - it makes all the difference.

Lentil Walnut Burgers with Dill Goat Cheese Spread, Avocado and Caramelized Onions

Makes 4

These burgers are inspired from a chickpea vegan burger with a tofu dill sauce that I had at a very earthy vegan cafe in Bali. So, when the crazy inclination to make my own version of a veggie burger struck, I decided to play on the flavors of my Balinese treat. Since I have never eaten a "real" hamburger, I can't say from experience that these lentils burgers are the ultimate, but as a burger skeptic, with some level of taste, I can confidentially say that both hamburger and veggie burger lovers alike will enjoy these. Nutty lentils, tangy goat cheese, fresh dill, sweet onions and creamy avocado on a soft whole wheat roll, make this a burger about the fixins. I served these burgers with sweet potato fries and ice-cold root beer for a real weeknight treat.

1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup cooked lentils (sautéed 1/3 cup minced onion in olive oil, add 3/4 cup dried lentils, cover with water and cook until tender, about 1 hour)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 cup raw walnuts, finely chopped
2 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons plain goat’s yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion (whatever kind that you prefer)
4 soft rolls or buns, cut in half
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
4 large leafs butter leaf lettuce

To make the burger patties, place the egg in a food processor. Add the salt, pepper, olive oil, cooked lentils, garlic, breadcrumbs and walnuts and pulse until well combined. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook. To make the spread, combine the goat cheese, yogurt, dill and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix together with a spoon. Set in the fridge until ready to use.

Heat the olive oil over in a medium/large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to medium/low. Use your hand to form a patty with a quarter of the lentil mixture and add to the hot oil. Continue to cook the onions until caramelized. Cook the patties for approximately 8 minutes on each side, or until crisp and brown. Meanwhile, spread a teaspoon or so of the goat cheese dill spread on each side of the roll/bun. Place the cooked lentil burger on the bottom half of the roll; add a few rings of the caramelized onions, a few slices of avocado and a leaf of lettuce. Serve warm.


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