Friday, March 20, 2015

Red Lentil and Bulgur Kufteh in Lettuce Leaves

Last night I was lucky to be at the super creative PEM/PM Artopia event doing a demonstration on my meatball cookbook. The theme matches so well with the museum's focus on global cross-clutural exchange that it was a fun fit. They let us pass out samples and make a mess but we couldn't actually "cook" with any flame. Besides that technical issue, it all was fun! I am so glad that so many people came out to see us!  

These Kufteh are a traditional and popular appetizer in many middle eastern homes. They are like a vegetarian meatball, the texture of a chunky hummus made from red lentils and cracked wheat. The lettuce leaf provides an enjoyable crunch and an edible wrapping. They are eaten chilled or at room temperature, and made a delicious lunch or afternoon snack. A sprinkle of finishing salt and lemon juice is usually squeezed over the top. Last night we added a sliver of spicy cucumber pickles as well. 

If the appetizer presentation doesn't suit you, try the kufteh on top a large salad. They are naturally vegan. to make a gluten free version try replacing the bulgur with quinoa (but it would have to be simmered along with the lentils.) 

Red Lentil and Bulgur Kufteh in Lettuce Leaves

makes 20 veggie balls

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1/2 cup bulgur wheat (fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper

20+ little gem lettuce leaves
1 handful parsley, chopped fine
lemon juice
spicy pickles (optional)

Toast the cumin seed in a dry pan on high heat. When the cumin becomes fragrant and the seeds darken a little in color.

Combine the lentils and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, skim off any foam, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Not all of the water will be absorbed. 

Add the bulgur and salt, into the pot with the lentils. Stir together, cover and let sit for 30 minutes, until the bulgur is tender and all the liquid absorbed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, until transparent and tender. Stir often. Add the ground cumin and stir together for about 30 seconds, then stir into the lentils and bulgur.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, beat the lentil mixture in the bowl for a few minutes. This makes the mixture creamy. If it seems dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and Aleppo pepper if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Using two soup spoons form the lentil mixture into quenelles, (football shapes). Or, moisten your hands and shape the mixture into small lime-size balls. Moisten your hands again whenever the mixture begins to stick. 

Place on lettuce leaves arranged on a platter. Garnish with parsley and sprinkle with lemon juice and a dash of salt. A small slice of pickle is an untraditional but delicious addition. Serve cold or at room temperature. 

You love it? Its in my book, along with a bunch of other veggie balls and more!

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