So I’ve been trying to do some extra clean living lately. I think the overindulgence of the holidays pushed me over the edge. On top of eliminating gluten/wheat, I’ve stopped drinking wine, and have been trying to go without alcohol at all. Crazy talk, you say? Probably so. But something has been crying uncle (crazy uncle, perhaps?) and I’m trying to figure out what the hell it is.
Unfortunately, the thing that has made me feel the best is giving up wine. So that sucks.
Fortunately, I have very little sticktoitiveness so it probably won’t last long.
The biggest hassle with giving up wheat is the inability to cook a quick pasta dinner — which is generally a favorite with the kids and can be a good and easy meatless dinner option. I know there are gluten-free pasta varieties, but I haven’t found one that’s decent (any recommendations?) and I can’t tolerate sitting around the dinner table WITHOUT A GLASS OF WINE when everyone starts complaining about how much they hate the fake pasta. I have limits, you know.
So, I was digging deep into my brain (trust me, you don’t want to go there) and deep into the pantry (it’s not too pretty, either) to figure out a meatless dinner last night and came up with these crispy burgers made from split peas. They are sort of a cross between a veggie burger and a falafel, but the kids devoured them and came back for more. The boy even wanted the leftovers for lunch. We served them bunless with some homemade Russian dressing and beautiful salad greens from the solar powered greenhouse at Village Acres Farm. I think they would also be great made into smaller fritters for a delicious appetizer.
They are filled with all the best things — split peas (which are full or protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals), brown rice, butternut squash, garlic, onions, and some shredded cheese right inside the burger. Give them a try and don’t be scared off by the deep frying. You don’t need any special equipment. And for the fat phobics, just make sure your oil is at the right temperature and very little will be absorbed into your food. (I should add that if you are willing to use a non-stick pan, you could probably just pan fry these in much less oil — but I’d rather deep fry than use non-stick.) The other great thing about these is that the filling can be made up way ahead of time and you can fry them whenever you are ready. Plus they make great leftovers (cold or warmed up). Feel free to modify the spices and experiment with different sauces — I am definitely going to try a spicy curry variety with raita.
Crispy Split Pea Burgers
Makes about 10 burgers
1 cup of chopped onion (from about 1/2 of a large onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup of butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (from 1/2 of a small squash)
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 t smoked paprika
1 t ground cumin
1 cup of dried green split peas (yellow would probably be fine, and lentils might work too)
1/2 cup of brown rice
3 cups of vegetable broth (other broths would work too)
1 cup of cheddar cheese (packed), grated
2 T cornstarch (plus about 1 cup more for breading)
Canola oil (for frying)
1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Cook onion and garlic over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until just softened. Add in butternut squash cubes, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cumin. Cook for 2-3 minutes more.
2. Add in split peas, brown rice, and broth. Stir well to loosen any carmelized bits in the pan and cover. Cook for one hour or until peas and rice are soft and nicely cooked. Give it a stir every once in a while so it doesn’t stick. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Put pea mixture into the food processor (or use a masher if all else fails) and process for 5-10 seconds. If your mixture is still warm, make sure you leave the feed tube open so steam can escape. You don’t want a total puree — it’s best if it’s still a little chunky. But make sure the peas are blended well. Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and chill for 30-60 minutes (the more the better).
4. When ready to cook, stir 2 T of cornstarch and grated cheese into pea mixture. Stir well to incorporate evenly. In a deep saute pan, heat about 1/2 inch of canola oil to 375 degrees F.
5. Place about 1/2 cup of additional cornstarch on a plate. Shape pea mixture into small patties and dredge in cornstarch. Pat gently to remove any excess. Gently place into hot oil and fry about 2-3 minutes until golden. (I found they held together much better when formed into smaller patties and I cooked about 3 at a time. While they cook, use a metal spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan if they stick.)
6. Carefully flip them over (away from you so you don’t splatter hot oil on yourself) and cook for 2-3 additional minutes until golden brown on second side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven while the remainder cook.