Veggie Burger #3: Lentil-Walnut Burgers

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Lentil Walnut Burger with a side of green beans.

So far, my entries in the Veggie Burger Quest have been gussied up pancakes.  This time I decided to go with something that actually had “burger” in its name.  I found this vegan recipe in my elderly copy of Moosewood Cookbook, copyright 1977. It stars lentil, walnuts, and mushrooms, and makes a rich and savory burger.

Mollie Katzen had her priorities right when she created her classic Moosewood Cookbook.  Sometimes the recipes don’t work perfectly, and sometimes they aren’t the healthiest, but they always taste delicious.  I hear that the recent editions have cut back on the cheese, so are better for you.  I’m sticking with the old edition, cheese and all.  I learned to cook using this book – every time I open it I feel nostalgic.

So I got to work on Lentil Walnut Burgers.  I’ve made this before, but it was long ago, and my memories were fuzzy.  As I started on a massive chopping job, it all came back to me.  Finely minced onion, minced mushrooms, finely minced walnuts, minced celery.

As I minced and then minced some more, I had two regrets:  one, that I had committed to making a double batch, and two, that I still haven’t sprung for a food processor.  Still, my knife skills improved, and I got some endurance training, so it all worked out.

I also had to cook and mash a bunch of lentils, and that’s where I ran into trouble.  I don’t like mushy lentils, and followed my usual practice of cooking them until soft but still intact.  I soon discovered that it is not pleasant trying to mash piping hot beans.  I once again bewailed my lack of a food processor and pulled out a mortar and pestle.  I got them pretty well mashed, but left a lot semi-intact. I figured it would make the texture more interesting.  Plus, my arms were tired after all the mincing.

Once I had all of the ingredients together and semi-chilled, I formed the patties.  They were loose but held together  — until I tried to cook them.  Once they hit the skillet they instantly starting falling apart, and I was soon cooking up hash, not burgers.

I scooped them back into the bowl and added an egg to act as a binder.  Sorry, vegans.  It was that or cheese.  The burgers held together a lot better then, although they were still on the fragile side.

We ate them in buns with traditional burger toppings, and they were delicious – moist and savory, the mushrooms and walnuts making them rich and filled with umami.  I froze the extra uncooked burgers, and Grant cooked up some late that night.  He reports that they froze well, but he didn’t bother with burgers.  He just microwaved them and spread them on toast – and that they were even better that way.

Veggie Burger Verdict:  Absolutely delicious, moist and savory in a proper burgery way, and they have the density I want as well.   They work well on buns and would be a good choice for vegetarians at a cookout.  Their lack of structural integrity is a big problem though – they didn’t hold up in my cast iron frying pan; they’d never survive a grill.  I suspect that if I had cooked the lentils a little longer and mashed them completely into paste, the burgers would have been sturdier.  Another good reason to get a food processor!