My cousin Jill gave me Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” recently and it’s become my new favorite thing. Like, I leave it on the kitchen counter so I can read it while I eat my cereal. I carry it with me to appointments and meetings when I know I might have to wait. I even bring it to bed with me at night, and usually end up tucking it under the pillow next to me when I’m too sleepy to put it anywhere else.
It’s that good.
I love it because Mark writes like he’s talking to you over a glass of wine. He takes his time to explain things and he explains them in plain English. And he doesn’t just throw a bunch of recipes at you, he always starts with the big picture idea defines each section of the book, then he drills down to the nitty-gritty of what you need to know. It’s a logical book. It’s a practical book.
And it’s all about vegetarian cooking, which appeals to me because I’m mostly vegetarian (I eat fish) and because I do think that if more of us cut down on our meat consumption, the world would probably be a better place. Mark happens to agree. I love this quote, from the beginning of the book:
“My cooking and eating life has changed greatly in the three years since I began working on How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I wasn’t a vegetarian then, and I’m not one now. But I’m a lot closer, for two reasons: one, I have a far greater appreciation for the noncarnivorous world. And two, the world is changing in a way that is going to push all of us, reluctantly or not, towards being at least semi vegetarian; our rate of meat consumption simply cannot be justified, and that’s not going away.”
Anyway, I think the highlight of the book is the chapter on veggie burgers. Mark gives a birds-eye view of the whole meatless-patty-making process and then offers a selection of seasonally-themed recipes. Taking inspiration from this section, I developed the following lentil burgers, which I’m calling Superwoman Lentil Patties because 1) I felt like Superwoman after creating something so delicious out of stuff I had lying around in my pantry and 2) the nutritional value of these patties will make you feel like Superwoman after you eat them. Lentils are packed with fiber and protein, the carrots have vitamin A, and the spinach offers calcium and iron. They’re really a complete meal.
1/2 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 small shallot, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup loosely packed spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 carrot, grated
1 small yellow zucchini, grated (about 1/2 cup grated)
3 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender. (About 30 minutes.) Drain in a collander.
Place the shallot and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment. Process until finely grated. Add the lentils and all remaining ingredients except the breadcrumbs. Pulse until the texture of coarse meal, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times until all ingredients are incorporated. (If you do not have a food processor, mince the garlic and shallot by hand, chop the scallion, spinach, and parsley, then mash all ingredients–excluding the bread crumbs–together in a medium bowl using a potato masher.)
Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add enough bread crumbs until the mixture holds together. It will still seem quite wet, but don’t worry, this is to be expected. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Form patties with the lentil mixture and place in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.
Serve with burger fixin’s and potato salad or cole slaw.