The beets are totally optional; they were just sort of hanging out in the fridge, so I added some to the recipe. They added a smidge of creepy red-meaty color to the insides of the burgers, which I sort of enjoyed, but flavor-wise I don't think they did a whole lot of anything. Leave them out if you want to!
I'd like to redo these with even more mushroom for a less dry texture, but the burgers were delicious and easy so I'm posting the recipe anyway. I'll post the final draft, too!
2 1/4 cups cooked brown lentils
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1 small onion, diced
4 oz. (1/2 a package) cremini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (panko are usually vegan)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp. harissa paste (substitute tomato paste if you don't like/ can't find the harissa)
1/2 cup shredded raw beet
salt and pepper
oil for frying
1. Fry the onion and mushrooms over high heat until deep brown, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir/ knead with your hands until thoroughly combined.
3. Divide the burger mix into 6 equal pieces (or 8 if you like them a little more modest-sized.) Form each piece into a ball, and slowly press down into a round disc about 1 1/2 inches thick. (Or maybe you like square burgers. Whatever you want! It's up to you.)
4. To cook, fry in a little oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat for five minutes per side. Don't move them around while they're cooking, so that they can brown on the outside. Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes to firm them up a little more.