To Fill A Bun

Panini buns – purchased for a rained-out hike – and ripe tomatoes set me on a quest for an alternative burger. I love this brief time of local tomatoes and eat them in every possible way. But in a full disclosure of Western Washington reality this year, I must mention the great baskets of green tomatoes at the market, and the green tomato recipe roundup posted by inventive gardener-cooks on my friend Willi’s web site:

Still, these precious few, these delicious few, tomatoes ripened in a tunnel or greenhouse, belong on a bun with something savory. We (I) sometimes succumb to nature burgers from the freezer as a last minute meal, tasty enough with avocado, tomato, and lettuce, along a side of roasted potatoes or baked beans.

But the other night on the phone, our older son described how he was making zucchini grinders, and they sounded good. Sauté grated zucchini, add a little marinara sauce and red pepper flakes, and a slice of mozzarella – then tuck into ciabatta buns, wrap in foil and put in the oven to crisp up.

And a while back my old friend sent a recipe she liked from the New York Times for nut burgers. They look tempting, made from a mix of raw nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews or others, and served on a bun topped with mustard, ketchup, or chutney.

I was out of walnuts, but did have lots of lentils. I read several possible lentil burger recipes – some simple, some involving sautéed additions or a chewy component like quinoa – and roughly followed one. The whole alternative burger thing seems very flexible – that’s a plus – but maybe my little green lentils weren’t right.

My husband’s initial reaction at the sight of four patties in the pan was less than enthusiastic: “Well those look sort of edible.” (With tomato and bun, he did revise his comment to “Well, these are pretty good.”) It’s a work in progress, figuring this out, and we get to experiment more since a cup of dried lentils with sunflower seeds, shredded carrots, onions, beaten eggs, and tomato paste makes a lot of “burger.” We can add sautéed mushrooms or cheese. Maybe I can freeze a few.

Either way, it’s the hold-it-in-your hand comfort of the bun I like. But next time I’ll try the nut burgers or zucchini grinders!

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