Whenever I hear “lentil” I have a vision of my Jewish grandmother speaking Yiddish to my grandfather in their Florida apartment in about 1990 while I sit at the table eating a pink grapefruit. “Lentil” isn’t even Yiddish, and I’m not even sure my grandparents even spoke Yiddish. But something about “lentil” screams Yiddish—like kugel and blintzes (the only two dishes my grandmother actually did make). (Or maybe I just created this Judaic vision because “lentil” rhymes with “Yentl,” and who is more Jewish than Barbara?)
So even though “lentil” has no real ground in my Jewish upbringing, I’m still going to think of my Granny Ann when I cook with lentils.
And since it has been awhile since I’ve posted any interesting vegetarian dishes, here is a recipe for “Walnut-Lentil Burgers” that I adapted from Moosewood’s cookbook, a little restaurant in Ithaca. I borrowed the cookbook from our fabulous Asheville-born neighbor Laura who spent less than a year in Ithaca before she swore off winter for good and moved back to NC (and who can blame her?).
I manipulated the ingredients quite a bit (as usual), but the concept is the same. First, rinse a few cups of lentils and boil them until soft. In the meantime, cut up any veggies that you’d like in a burger. I used onion, green pepper, and carrots because that’s all I had.
Throw them all in a pan with about a tablespoon of oil and cook until a bit soft (not too soft to be mushy but not too hard to be crunchy). Throw in some pepper, basil, parsley, and dry mustard. I think those who like a little kick to their burgers (not me) would enjoy some jalepenos or hot sauce here. And of course, chop up a cup or so of walnuts and toss them in the pan.
When lentils are done, mash them and add your veggie/walnut mixture. Then add either bread crumbs or wheat germ (I used a little more than a cup of wheat germ).
Mix well, cover, and put in the refrigerator for about an hour. After an hour, patty them up and fry them in a pan! The recipe says you may broil them but ew, don’t. Fry them so they get warm throughout and a bit crunchy on each side.
I served them on honey oat bread and a side of mixed greens.
I recommend trying my little Yiddish-inspired lentil burgers, and if you have room, eat a grapefruit for dessert.