If there's one snide put-down any vegetarian has likely heard from a vegetable-scoffing meat-eater, it's something along the lines of "lentil-eating hippie." Fair enough. Most vegetarians have been known to eat a lentil or two… but hippie? Really? Travel to India or Turkey, where legumes such as the lentil are among the most commonly consumed food staples, and you'll find vegetarians and meat eaters dining on them in healthy, yummy food harmony—without the name-calling.
Perhaps we can credit vegetarian cookbook author Mollie Katzen and her iconic Moosewood restaurant cookbook series for tangling lentils with the 1960s & '70s counterculture movement. Originally published in 1978, The Moosewood Cookbook became synonymous with the fledgling Ithaca, NY collective and the recipes that were then a much less accepted dietary choice than today. Fast-forward and we're now seeing the USDA recommend more plant-based foods as part of a healthy diet, restaurants, celebrities and even politicians choosing vegan and vegetarian diets to improve health.
Legumes offer a major source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and minerals including zinc, magnesium and potassium; and they are the third most protein-rich plant food. They're also extremely versatile and can be used in soups, stews, pilafs and in this incredible legendary recipe from Molllie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.
Lentil Walnut Burgers (courtesy of Mollie Katzen Recipes)
3/4 cup dry lentils (any kind)
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for sautéing the patties
1 cup minced onion
4 large cloves garlic, minced
10 large mushrooms, minced
1/2 cup very finely minced walnuts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound spinach, finely minced (optional)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs, wheat germ or rolled oats
Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is gone. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, add vinegar, and mash well.
Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the bread crumbs, wheat germ or oats, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the sautéed mixture and bread crumbs, wheat germ or oats to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour before forming patties.
Form 4-inch diameter patties. (It might be easiest to do this if you wet your hands.) Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet, and sauté the patties on both sides until heated through and crispy. You can also just broil them for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jilettinger