Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet Potato, Lentil and Kale Burgers

For me, 2014 is the Year of Change. I'm in the midst of moving from the shores of Washington's Puget Sound, where fresh seafood is abundant and shellfish is easily harvested, back to a place in Oregon that is beautifully situated between the Cascade Mountain Range and a city where a river runs through it.

I'm also starting off this new year transitioning towards more of a plant-based diet, eliminating the fish and shellfish that have been a part of my pescetarian diet for the past number of years.

I've tried this before and failed, but now I have the support and encouragement of family who are also discovering and enjoying the benefits of vegetarian and vegan cuisine, which makes it easier for me to stick with my resolution to eliminate seafood and more. I haven't entirely eliminated eggs and the occasional sheep and goat cheeses, yet.

Ever wondered what to call yourself while you are transitioning to a plant-based diet?

  • A vegan is one who does not eat meat, eggs or dairy of any kind. Some vegans avoid such foods as gelatin, honey... or eating or buying anything that has some form of animal-based ingredient used in the process of making the product.
  • A flexitarian is one who has a mostly vegetarian diet, but sometimes eats meat. 
  • One who is a vegetarian but also eats eggs is called an ovo-vegetarian. 
  • One who is a vegetarian but also eats dairy is a lacto-vegetarian. 
  • One who is a vegetarian but also eats dairy and eggs is called a lacto-ovo vegetarian. 

This past weekend,  I attended a vegetarian/vegan potluck. Everyone brought something for the "Burrito Bar" - tortillas, beans, corn, tempeh, tofu, homegrown sprouts, salsa, spices and condiments. One brought black bean brownies and another black bean pudding for dessert.

The theme of our discussion was beans. I tossed out the idea of having a bean burger "bake-off" with a prize for the best bean burger recipe. I am not posting my bean burger "bake-off" entry recipe until after this event happens, IF it happens.

Although this is not a bean burger, here is one our family's favorite ovo-vegetarian burgers. There are only a few changes to the original recipe, which is on page 79 of Luke Volger's cookbook "Veggie Burgers Every Which Way."

 This recipe will make six 4-inch burgers, so we recommend doubling or tripling the recipe, cooking and freezing what you don't eat right away to reheat for later meals. Remember to never double or triple the salt when making more than one batch of anything with salt as an ingredient; increase salt to taste.


3/4 cup French Lentils (small, green)
1 bunch Kale (remove tough stems)
1 medium Sweet Potato (approx. 8 ounces), peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, diced
1-1/2 teaspoons Garam Masala
1-1/2 teaspoons Curry Powder
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Squeeze of fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 cup Oatmeal (gluten-free), lightly ground
1/4 cup Almonds, ground to a meal-like consistency (using spice grinder with slivered Almonds)

Sort through the lentils and rinse. Bring lentils to a boil in a small sauce pan in 3 cups water. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. When tender, drain and transfer to a large bowl. Coarsely mash lentils with a potato masher.

Steam the kale, by what ever method you prefer, for 5-8 minutes. Remove and cool, then wrap in a clean kitchen cloth towel and squeeze out any excess liquid. Finely chop and set aside.

Steam the sweet potato for 8-10 minutes, or bake until tender. Add the sweet potato to the lentils, mashing and blending with a potato masher or fork.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garam masala, curry powder and cayenne pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, 8-10 minutes. Then add the chopped kale and minced garlic. Cook and toss to combine for 2 minutes. Note: If a crust forms on the base of the pan, add 2 tablespoons water and scrape up the browned mixture with a wooden spoon.

Combine the kale-onion and lentil mixtures together. Stir in the eggs, coriander, salt and lemon juice. Blend in the ground oatmeal and almonds. Adjust seasoning according to your taste. Shape into 6 burger patties.

In an oven-safe skillet or non-stick saute pan, heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the patties and cook until browned on both sides, 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until firm to the touch and cooked through.

Serve hot on a toasted bun, or room temperature in a lettuce wrap, with your favorite condiments. Freeze and reheat leftovers.

Recipe adaptation, meal preparations, and photos by Effie.