Margie Coloian of Johnston, R.I., was raised in an Armenian family in Providence. “My mother died when I was 4, and I began cooking at an early age,’’ she writes, “for fun, not necessity. We always ate healthy foods, what is now known as the Mediterranean Diet, lots of veggies, legumes, lean lamb, chicken.’’ Since she grew up on lentils, she adds, “I had an interest in creating something new with them. We ate red lentils in a soup, or in a pie, drained red lentils, formed thin as a pizza and topped with parsley and onions.’’ Here Coloian transforms the lentils into burgers that can be cooked in a skillet or grilled.
½cup dried red lentils2cups water3tablespoons canola oil½red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped½onion, finely chopped1clove garlic, finely chopped1tablespoon chopped fresh parsley¾teaspoon salt½teaspoon Aleppo hot pepper, or crushed red pepper1egg yolk½cup fresh white bread crumbs
1. In a saucepan, combine the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until lentils look like they are mashed. In a strainer, drain lentils and squeeze out excess water with the back of a spoon. Transfer to a bowl.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. When it is hot, add the bell pepper and onion. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until the onion is almost opaque. Add the garlic and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a bowl; cool.
3. Add the onion mixture to the lentils with salt, pepper, egg yolk, and bread crumbs. With a rubber spatula, stir the mixture, which will be very thick. With slightly moistened hands, form 4 burgers.
4. Wipe out the skillet and set it over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cook the burgers for 3 minutes. Turn and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Continue cooking, turning often, until the burgers are golden brown and cooked through.
SAUCE AND PITA
½cup plain yogurt2tablespoons chopped fresh mint4pita pockets (about 6-inches each), halved1large tomato, sliced1onion, sliced
1. In a bowl, combine the yogurt and mint.
2. Slip the burgers into pita pockets. Add tomato, onion, and yogurt dressing. Adapted from Margie Coloian