As a self-proclaimed meatetarian, I cannot see myself enjoying a diet completely void of animal products. On occasion, however, there are certain dishes that just transcend me to an animal-free place of mind where I find myself completely content eating things of the Earth.
This completely vegan (my family uses olive oil instead of butter in this dish) and absolutely delicious Armenian entree (yes, meat-eating Armenians can sometimes eat meatless dishes) is my next installment in my international cuisine ode to the Olympics... I certainly couldn't leave out my mother country :)
This recipe calls for red lentils which are a bit different than green or brown lentils, which you may be more familiar with. These actually become completely mushy when you cook them, but that is the point for this dish! You don't want them to retain their shape. The whole mixture is going to get incorporated with olive oil, onions, fine bulgur wheat and seasonings to form little Heavenly mouthfuls of pure pleasure.
And to top it all off, a fresh veggie "salata" either on the side so you can dip your kyoftes in it, or served over them to then be eaten with a fork (I tend to take the latter route since the kyoftes can be a bit on the soft side and difficult to eat with your hands).
*Note* Photos above were updated on 6/14/15.
Red Lentil Kofte
1 cup red lentils, picked over for stones and rinsed
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced
1 cup grade #1 fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
3 green onions, minced
1 T. finely chopped parsley
Salt and hot pepper to taste
1 green Italian pepper, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sumac (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
For the salata, mix together all the ingredients and set aside until service.
In a large pot combine the lentils and the water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer about 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are very tender. The mixture will still have a lot of liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in another pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook until soft and translucent and remove from heat. When the lentils are cooked, add them to the olive oil and onion mixture, and then add the bulgur.
Mix, cover, and set aside for about 20 minutes or more until the bulgur wheat has absorbed the excess liquid and is nice and tender. If the mixture still has a crunch, cover it and let it continue to absorb until it is completely soft.
When the mixture is finally the right texture, use a wooden spoon or your hands (dip them in warm water first) to knead the mixture. Mix in half the green onions, reserving the rest for garnish. Add salt and hot red pepper to taste and blend well.
To shape the kofte, set up a bowl with warm water beside the pot, dip your hands in the water and grab a small handful of lentil mixture. Form it into a ball and then lightly begin to make a fist with your hand to make it a bit more oblong (but not completely flat) and leave finger imprints on one side. Place on a serving dish, dip your hands in warm water and repeat the process until all of the lentil mixture has been used to form koftes. Garnish with the remaining green onions and the parsley and serve with the salata as an accompaniment.