It's crunch time. We're in the process of selling our house and preparing for a year of serving in Haiti. My hubby is only working part-time for these few months. That means our budget is tight, tight, tight these days. I'm tempted to whine about it but I'll try the high road and make it into a food challenge. I'm starting a new occasional series on this blog called "Budget Bites," which features healthy, scrumptious foods that is cheap to make. I did something similar last fall when I took on the Great Pantry Challenge. I discovered lots of fun recipes just by scavenging through my own pantry. Only this time it will be individual recipes and the inspiration to possibly try out some new ingredients - not just your familiar staples.
A few months ago my hubby's cousins from Spain came to visit. I have a foodie friend in Maribel and she introduced me to some of her family's favorite eats including homemade Spanish Paella and Tapas (Spanish appetizers). On the simpler side, we also served up a lunch of lentil burgers together. I was shocked to watch her three kids and my two girls gobble these babies down.
What struck me later was how cheap these are to make and you still can have the "burger experience." Sign me up. If a "veggie burger" or anything "lentil" sounds blah to you, don't be a hater until you've tried these out. My carnivore soul was surprised. (Our family tries to eat vegetarian two to three times a week to save moolah and for health reasons but my Italian-Filipino upbringing still has me savoring my meat.) If you really want it to taste like a burger, skip the yogurt sauce and add your favorite condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayo or salsa.
We welcome all positive (and even negative!) feedback from our eaters!
-2 cups dried lentils
-1 onion, chopped
-1 green pepper, chopped (You could substitute zucchini.)
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-2 red cherry peppers, finely diced (My mom had these in her garden and my hubby likes the extra kick that's not too overpowering for my kids. You could try out a jalapeno for more heat or red bell pepper for a sweeter taste.)
-2 teaspoons sea salt
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-3 cups panko breadcrumbs (Japanese-style breadcrumb sold in most stores that add an extra crunch when you're breading something or other whole wheat breadcrumbs will work)
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 cucumber, thinly sliced
-1 tomato, sliced
-8 whole wheat pita bread pockets or whole wheat buns
-1 cup plain yogurt mixed with a few drops of lemon juice
-mint or basil leaves for garnish
1. Put lentils into a large mixing bowl. Cover with water & let soak for an hour or overnight. (They will grow in the bowl so make sure yours is big enough.)
2. Chop onion, green pepper, garlic and hot pepper.
3. When lentils are soft, mix with immersion hand blender or food processor. You want the mixture to be a very coarse paste, not runny like hummus.
4. Heat skillet and add 1/4-inch of olive oil.
5. Stir chopped vegetables and spices into the lentils.
6. Pour half of the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or dish. Spread out along the bottom of the bowl.
7. Form a "hamburger pattie" in your hands with the lentil mixture. Immediately press into the breadcrumbs. Use a spatula to flip in breadcrumbs and help you transfer the pattie into the sizzling olive oil. Saute until golden brown on both sides. Repeat with remaining lentil mixture.
8. Serve on a whole wheat pita bread or bun with slices of tomatoes and cucumber. Garnish with whole leaves of mint or basil and yogurt sauce.
Makes 12 burgers; Serves 6-8