02 May 2015

Sprouted Lentil Burgers on Yogurt & Green Sauce

I've had so much fun getting back into cooking! Not only do I have my familiar kitchen tools around me again, but I also have appreciative family members around me that make the effort worth it. Last night, I experimented with this recipe from San Francisco's Bar Tartine for Lentil Croquettes with Watercress and Kefir, published in Bon Appetit's April 2015 issue. Uncertain of how it would go over with my parents, I hedged and presented it as a first course before the actual dinner. But it actually turned out to be such a hit that we ended up making it the main part of our meal!

At first glance, the original recipe sounded not only delicious and healthy, but also absolutely intriguing, with a medley of fascinating ingredients combined in ways I hadn't thought of before. The problem was, however, that the ingredient list and prep steps seemed just a tad too extensive to make this immediately accessible for the home cook. Though I have many types of whole seeds on hand, I just didn't have whole caraway seeds. Then there were items that I've never cooked with. Onion powder? Nope. Pomegranate molasses? No again. Watercress? Couldn't find it in my local stores. I also don't happen to have a spice mill, and I never feel like shallow-frying is worth the inevitable clean-up of oil spatters afterwards. So, I made a bunch of substitutions in both ingredients and method, and I discovered this is a pretty forgiving recipe.

One thing I did indulge in was to make the sprouted lentils at home. You can find sprouted lentils in many produce stores and farmers' markets these days, but actually it is quite easy to do at home. I sprouted 3/4 cup dry lentils in a 1-quart mason jar, ending up with about 3 cups of sprouted lentils after 2 days. First, wash your lentils and remove any debris. Then cover your lentils with about 3x volume of water and let sit 12 hours. Drain and wash lentils (a fine-mesh sieve held against the mouth of the jar helps to keep the lentils in the jar), cover loosely (cheese cloth or mesh works well--anything to allow breathing but to keep dust out is great), and let sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight for about 2 days, washing and draining well every 12 hours. When sprouts are of desired length, store lentils in the refrigerator and use within a few days. Besides this recipe, sprouted lentils are fantastic in salads or just as a snack as-is!

This dish is such a tasty and fun combination of flavors, colors, and textures, that I am keeping the recipe to make again.

Sprouted Lentil Burgers with Yogurt & Green Sauces
Adapted from Bar Tartine's recipe
Makes 6 appetizers or 3 more substantial servings

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. agave syrup (or honey)

Green Sauce
2 cups baby greens
1 tsp. coriander powder
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (tip: I used Trader Joe's liquid concentrate)
1/2 tsp. salt

Lentil Burgers
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 slice of whole wheat toast bread, torn into small pieces
2 Tbs. goat cheese
1 Tbs. Greek yogurt
2 cups sprouted lentils
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
Olive oil (for cooking)
Baby greens (for garnish)

Yogurt Sauce: Stir yogurt and agave syrup with a little water to loosen; set aside.

Green Sauce: Combine all ingredients in the large bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer sauce to another container and set aside. (No need to clean out food processor--it can be used as-is for the next step.)

Lentil Burgers: Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat; add cut scallions and cook until blistered and charred, turning occasionally. Reserve pan.

Process scallions along with all remaining burger ingredients (except for the oil and garnish) until a paste forms. (Note: I was worried by how loose and moist the paste appeared to me, but the cooking process will dry out the paste and the burgers will actually hold their shape and flip well. In fact, I found that in the end the patties turned out on the dry side, but that was perfect for sopping up the juicy green sauce and complemented well by the creamy yogurt sauce....yum!)

Heat the non-stick pan over medium-high heat once more and lightly brush with olive oil. When pan is sizzling (a drop of water dances), portion out the sprouted lentil mixture as desired, smoothing to form patties. (I divided my batch into 6 patties, cooking 3 at a time in the pan.) Cook until edges begin to show a toasty golden brown, then flip, cooking the second side. Patties may be served warm, but they are delicious at room temperature as well.

To serve: Plate swirls of the yogurt and green sauces in shallow bowls. Top with sprouted lentil patty and garnish with greens.