Leftovers give you two separate good feelings. When you first put them away, you feel really intelligent–“I’m saving food!” And then, after a month, when hair is growing out of them and you throw them away you feel…really intelligent–“I’m saving my life!”
I often think of eggplants like George Carlin’s leftovers. When you buy one, you feel really good for bringing home this healthy, shiny vegetable. Then you put it into your fridge and forget it for a week or so, and when you pull it out, it’s all dull and sunken in places, and you feel…. Well, that’s where the comparison ends because, if you’re like me, you feel guilty that this once-beautiful food has gone to waste.
It used to happen to me more often than I want to admit until I hit upon a solution: If I haven’t used the eggplant after two or three days, I cut it in two and roast it in my toaster oven. Eggplant will last longer once it’s cooked, giving me time to figure out what new and adventurous recipe I want to create with it (though most of the time my cooking muse is silent and it becomes baba ganoush).
Baba will probably always be my favorite way to use roasted eggplant, but these veggie burgers and the pesto I posted earlier this summer tie for second place. Even if you don’t like eggplant, you will love these burgers, which really don’t taste like eggplant at all (ask E the Eggplant Hater, who enjoyed her burger even knowing it contained eggplant).
I used a new favorite ingredient to bind together the eggplant and lentils: Quinoa flakes are quinoa that has been steamed and flattened so that you can use it like oatmeal as a hot cereal. It cooks quickly and in this recipe doesn’t have to be pre-cooked at all. (I know somebody is going to ask me, so let me say that I haven’t tried making these with oatmeal, so I don’t know if that will work or not. If you choose to experiment, I suggest using quick oatmeal, not the longer-cooking kind.)
I enjoyed the flavor of mild curry with the lentils and eggplant and, being the heat-lover that I am, spiced them up by serving them with a fiery relish made from onions and a jalapeno pepper from my garden. If you’re not a curry lover, try changing the seasonings to suit your taste. I can imagine the ingredients going well with chipotle and chile powder or harissa and cumin. Have fun and be adventurous!
One note: Like most veggie burgers, these will fall apart if you try to cook them on a barbecue grill, but once they’re baked, they hold together well and can be reheated on the grill, making them a perfect food to bring to a Labor Day picnic.
Curried Eggplant, Lentil, and Quinoa Burgers
- 1 large eggplant (see Notes below)
- 3/4 cup quinoa flakes (instant potatoes or oatmeal may work)
- 1/2 small onion , chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic cloves , minced or pressed
- 1 cup cooked lentils
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (spicy or mild)
- 2 teaspoons potato starch , cornstarch, or arrowroot
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar (or other sweetener)
Preheat oven to 425 F. Remove the top of the eggplant and cut it in half lengthwise. Place it cut-sides down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Bake for 25 minutes or until the eggplant is completely sunken in and tender. Remove to a shallow dish and allow to cool completely. (You can do this even several days in advance and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.)
Once the eggplant is cool, discard any liquid that has accumulated and scrape the flesh from the peel. Place the pulp in a food processor and pulse a few times to make a coarse puree. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix very well and allow to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, wipe or spray it with a little pan spray or canola oil. Wet your hands and form eggplant mixture into patties about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. (You can also form the burgers by spooning the mixture into the pan and using the back of a spoon to shape it into patties.) Cook three or four at a time until lightly browned and then carefully flip over and brown the other side. Remove with a spatula and place each burger on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until burgers are cooked through.
Serve with traditional hamburger condiments or with Spicy Onion-Pepper Relish.
After cooking, my eggplant provided about 1 1/2 cup or 10 ounces of pulp. If your eggplant is significantly larger or smaller, your results may vary.
Spicy Onion-Pepper Relish
- 1 medium onion , finely diced
- 1 hot pepper (I used red jalapeno), seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon spicy smoked paprika (or 3/4 tsp. smoked paprika and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Combine all ingredients and allow to stand for 30 minutes for flavors to blend. For hotter relish, add extra cayenne pepper to taste.
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