Last summer I tried to follow a very strict no carb diet. I could do that because at the time I had convinced myself that I was basically a carnivore. But after a couple of weeks I realized that, besides the fact that life style was simply unhealthy, vegetables and bread rather than meat have always been my thing. As a child, a sandwich with home-made pickled aubergine was my favorite treat and what wouldn’t I do to steal another of my mother’s fried zucchini flowers!
Italian cuisine is indeed basically… vegetarian. And I am not talking only of our wheat-based word-famous pastas and pizzas. We also eat (or used to eat) plenty of vegetables and we have an amazing tradition on how to prepare and cook any sort of products from the land. It is not surprising if you think of how mild Italian weather is and how incredibly available and varied vegetables were in Italy in the past. Yes, we also treasured our cured meats, our yummy salami and hams. Indeed, animals were slaughtered very seldom, and when that happened we needed to make the meat last for many months, to be eaten sparsely, as a vital supplement rather than a main course.
So… after many experiments with different styles of eating/living I feel compelled to go back to the food habits of my ancestors. Eat vegetables, raw, but also cooked in mouth-watering ways, and sometimes indulge in a high-quality piece of meat. Cured and Italian, if that is what you like (I do!).
RED LENTILS AND CELERY ROOT VEGGIE BURGER
adapted from Volger’s “Veggie burgers every which way”
You need: 1 celery root, 1 cup red lentils, 1 onion, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 cup red wine, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 2 cups freshly grated bread crumbs, olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, salt.
How to: peel and chop the celery root and cut in cubes. Cover with water and boil until tender (not mushy). Meanwhile, wash and boil the lentils in 2 cups (at least) of water until soft. In a medium-sized pan saute the sliced onion with olive oil and the thyme. When soft, deglaze with the red wine and cook until that is evaporated. While the onion cools off, grate a few slices of stale bread in a food processor. Preheat the oven to 380 degrees (Fahrenheit, 190 Celsius). Combine the lentils, celery root and onions in a large bowl. Mash only part of the celery root with a fork and add the remaining ingredients. Shape the mixture into burgers and fry until golden on both sides. Transfer onto an oven dish covered with baking paper and finish cooking for 10-15 minutes (checking frequently and reducing the temperature eventually).
CONSIDERATIONS: As a vegetarian who eats meat, I can tell that these burgers were truly scrumptious and that they were healthy without tasting just healthy. Like Italian cuisine at its best. It was an extra treat to have them on some freshly baked hamburger buns, find the recipe in my post healthier hamburger buns.