Lentil Burgers with Fragrant Spices (vegan + gluten-free!)

(my invention with flavors inspired by Kabocha French Lentil Soup by Rebecca Stevens of SoupLove and posted on 101 Cookbooks: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/kabocha-french-lentil-soup-recipe.html)

Lentil Burgers with Fragrant Spices (vegan + wheat-free!)

Makes 6 – 8 medium burgers

¾ C. dry green lentils, cooked with star anise + ginger (about 1½ cups cooked; see directions below)
1 lb. yam, cubed and simmered with star anise + ginger (see directions below)
1 star anise
About 6 thin slices of fresh ginger
1 – 2 Tbs. olive oil for mixture and more for frying burgers
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
½ fresh fennel bulb, diced (optional but very good)
1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger (microplane is preferable)
2 tsp. fennel powder
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1/3 C. brown rice flour
¾ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place the star anise and the ginger slices in a bit of cheesecloth and tie with cooking twine.

Wash lentils and put them in a pot with cubed yams (peeled or unpeeled, it’s up to you) and the spice bundle. Add about 2 cups of water (you’ll drain the excess, so don’t worry about the amount; just make sure you have enough to cover everything). Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until lentils and yams are soft. Check frequently to make sure they don’t overcook and become mushy. Place in sieve and allow them to drain well while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients. To extract maximum flavor, you can leave the spice bundle in until the last minute.

Dice the onion and fennel. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the fennel seeds. Allow to toast slightly but don’t allow to burn. This is quick; probably less than a minute, so don’t fall asleep. Now add the onion and fennel and sauté until slightly caramelized (6 minutes or so). Add the grated fresh ginger and sauté for another minute or two. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before continuing.

Remove the spice bundle and place the lentils and yams in a food processor with the onion-fennel mixture. Add fennel powder, lemon or lime juice, brown rice flour, salt and pepper. Pulse several times to break the mixture down somewhat, but stop when just combined. Don’t let the processor run freely or you’ll end up with a big unmanageable glob. Taste for seasoning now and make any adjustments necessary.

Transfer to a bowl and place in refrigerator for at least an hour (preferably more) to allow the brown rice flour to absorb some of the moisture. You’ll have a much more cooperative mixture after it has had some time in the refrigerator. Overnight is even better. If you don’t cook all these the first night, save the uncooked mixture in a jar in the refrigerator and cook as needed. Fry in olive oil.

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