As promised, we are using up leftover lentils today. No leftover lentils? Go start a pot of the little French ones now. Cover a cup of them with water, toss in a bay leaf, they’ll be ready before your remaining ingredients are chopped. Which brings us to the next point: this is a more time-consuming recipe than most that I post on this site. You may not want to start cooking these at 6 p.m. on a weekday–but then again, you might. Who am I to insist that you eat before 7?
If you’re looking for a “center of the plate” vegetarian main course, look no further. One or two of these golden cakes, anointed with a dollop of herby yogurt sauce, makes an elegant entree. At the same time, nobody could blame you for popping one of these into a hamburger bun and piling it with crunchy lettuce and tomatoes. The perfect vegetarian burger is an elusive thing, but these fit the bill: flavorful, moist, and sturdy enough to pick up in your hand.
This recipe is adapted from the blog Coconut and Quinoa, so all the credit goes to Amy for the little touches that make this recipe work: mashed chickpeas and oat flour to bind the patties without egg, a sauteed grated zucchini for moisture, and piles of herbs, capers, and a spash of balsamic vinegar to brighten and enhance the flavor of the earthy lentils.
French Lentil Cakes with Yogurt and Fresh Herbs: In large bowl, mash 1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas. Saute a finely-chopped red onion until browned, adding 6 minced cloves of garlic near the end of the cooking time. Scoop the onions and garlic into the chickpea mash. In the same pan, saute a grated zucchini for 2-3 minutes to wilt it, then add that to the bowl as well. Pulse 1/2 c. rolled oats in a food processor to make oat flour (or, hey, if you have oat flour already–you know what to do). Add oat flour to the bowl along with 3 Tbsp. chopped capers, 1/2 c. each chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, and dill (or whatever combination you have handy), 2 Tb. chopped mint and 1 Tb. balsamic vinegar. Add 1 1/2 c. cooked lentils and stir everything up, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper smeared with a bit of olive oil. Use your hands or a measuring cup to form 1/3-cup cakes, patting them together firmly. (You can put them in the fridge at this point until you are ready to bake them.) Brush the tops and sides of the cakes with a little more olive oil. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Serve them upside down (isn’t that smart? That’s Amy’s tip too), since the bottoms will be more attractive than the tops. I served them with my favorite yogurt-cilantro sauce, but I’m sure Amy’s yogurt-mint sauce is delicious as well.