Most of the recipes on this blog are inspired by new-to-me ingredients or by a method I’ve seen on The Food Network. But sometimes I’m also inspired by bad food. Let me explain: last week, I went out to a restaurant and the only thing that was vegan on the entire menu was something called a beluga lentil burger with rice. It was hard, dry, tasteless and totally uninspired compared to the rest of the fantastic-looking dishes around me. It made me wonder why vegan options in some restaurants are conceived and executed with either little or no effort, or perhaps even with a slightly passive-aggressive attitude, or both.
Determined to make a better burger, I foraged through my cabinets this weekend and came up with this faux-meaty and sage-kissed patty. The addition of wheat gluten and shiitake caps here really gives the burger a unique bite, while the lentils and pistachios work well together to give it some bulk and good texture. Serve it alone or on a bun, and you’ll have a nifty burger that is both simple to prepare and utilizes common vegan pantry items.
for the burgers
3 shallots, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup black lentils, rinsed
5-7 dried shiitake mushroom caps
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 TB Ener-G, whisked with 1/8 cup water
2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
for the fries
1-4 potatoes, peeled and thinly cut
vegetable oil, for frying
Bring three cups of water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to heat up, throw the diced shallots into a separate saute pan with the oil and saute over low heat.
When the water starts to boil, add in the lentils and dried shiitake caps and place the cover over the pot so some steam can escape during cooking. Boil for 18-20 minutes, then pour them into a fine-mesh strainer to drain and cool. Once cooled, remove the shiitake from the lentils and dice them up, discarding the tough stems.
Place the pistachios into a food processor and coarsely grind them. By this time, your shallots should be nicely caramelized. Add the shallots, lentils, diced shiitake caps, pistachios and parsley to a large bowl and mix until well combined. Add in the vital wheat gluten and stir. Now add in the water/Energ-G mixture and stir for about two minutes with a strong fork to allow the gluten to develop. Now add in the sage and salt and pepper and stir until well combined.You can then either place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours or fry the burgers immediately.
To fry the burgers, shape them into patties, slightly squeezing the mixture together as you are shaping it. Fry in a saute pan with a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until it is slightly browned.
To make the fries, place several inches of vegetable oil in a medium-sized pot. Heat over medium high heat. After 7-8 minutes, drop a fry into the oil—if it sizzles immediately, you are ready to fry. Fry in small batches (do not overcrowd or the moisture/temperature of the fries will interfere will the oil temperature, resulting in soggy fries.) Fry until crisp, about 4-5 minutes and remove from the oil with heat-resistant tongs. Transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle immediately with a little salt.