This burger came to me as an idea from Ani, one of the publisher Matthew’s good friends, whose family hails from Armenia. As I’m not very fluent (read: not fluent at all) in Armenian cooking, she gave me some of the key spices and components of the cuisine, and then the burger just wrote itself. Don’t be dismayed by the laundry list of ingredients because it’s really not complicated—cook the beans with some aromatics, and separately cook the onion with dry spices, blitz everything in a food processor, and fold in the bread crumbs.
One time I made it with my friend Emily, who had the idea to put the mixture through the meat grinder attachment of her Kitchen Aide. With this burger, it really worked! (I don’t know that it would work so well with burgers where one wants a chunkier texture.) We made “sliders” and dipped them in a delicious cucumber-mint yogurt sauce she threw together, but any crispy vegetable compliments the burger on a toasted bun or warm pita: cucumbers, radishes, red onion, romaine lettuce….
Armenian Lentil Burger
Yield: 5 burgers
1 cup French lentils
2 T plus 1 t olive or grapeseed oil
1/2 onion, sliced into two quarters from the stem
2 whole cloves
1-inch piece ginger, sliced into two pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cinnamon stick
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-3/4 t ground allspice
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t grated fresh ginger
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup parsley, roughly chopped
squeeze lemon juice
3/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs
Pick through the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Stud each of the onion quarters with a clove. In a lidded medium saucepan, heat the 1 teaspoon oil over medium high heat. Add the onion quarters, ginger pieces, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Stir, then cover and cook for one minute, until fragrant. Add the lentils and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Discard the aromatics (the onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf) and pour off any excess liquid.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and cayenne. Fry for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to caramelize. Reduce the heat and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about five minutes more, until the onions are fully cooked.
Set aside 1/2 cup of the cooked lentils. In a food processor, combine the remaining lentils, eggs, and onions, and pulse until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the reserved lentils, salt, parsley, lemon juice, and breadcrumbs. Adjust seasonings. Using your hands, shape the mixture into five patties (or if you want to mimic the photo, you can make about a dozen “slider” mini-burgers).
To panfry: heat two tablespoons olive, grapeseed, or vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the burgers, in batches if necessary to avoid crowding, cooking 5 to 7 minutes on each side until browned and firmed.
To bake: Preheat oven 350-degrees. Place burgers on a lightly greased baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, until browned and firmed in the middle. Flip them over halfway through the baking time.