Legumes are a staple in Turkish cuisine; lentils, chickpeas, all kind of dried beans are on everyday menus for home cooks to feed their families well even with a tight budget. They are a significant source of protein, fiber and more, and they are delicious! Legumes are quite versatile to cook to make salads, soups, ragouts or even purees… Today, I chose lentils, especially the red ones since they are very fast to cook.
I am always proud to tell stories about recipes that I learned in my mother’s kitchen during my childhood but now I have a confession to make about this particular ingredient. Although I personally and professionally love to cook and eat them, my knowledge of cooking legumes is not rooted from my mother’s cuisine. I am from the Aegean coast of Turkey where we are obsessed with wild greens, vegetables cooked in olive oil, fish and seafood, while legumes and red meat specialties take place mostly in central, eastern and southeastern Anatolia regions where they are also dominantly cultivated.
My uncle’s wife is from central Anatolia, so I tasted many legume dishes for the first time in her kitchen. I remember that, as a food lover kid, going to my uncle’s felt like a “traveling for food” kind of experience. My uncle’s wife used to make this recipe that I’m writing today, and it was always a festive event with many family members gathered for an afternoon tea.
This recipe was also a permanent item on Restaurant Su‘s menu since day one!
1 cup red lentils
1/3 cup fine bulgur (#1)
4 cups water
1 onion, diced finely
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
½ tablespoon sea salt
1 cup, roughly chopped parsley leafs
1 small butter lettuce, leafed and cleaned
Boil 4 cups water and lentils in medium stockpot for 2 minutes and lover the heat to simmer. After 5 minutes or so, lentils start to break up. Cook through until lentils are totally soft and no water left in the pot, it takes about 15-20 minutes. Add the bulgur, give it a quick mix, cover with a lid and let it rest 30 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the oil and sauté onions in a pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent, add two pastes, salt and ground cumin. Cook few more minutes stirring and remove from heat. Add it right away in the lentils and mix well with a wooden spoon. When the mix is blended perfectly add chopped parsley, cover with wrap and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
To serve: Put the lettuce leafs on a plate or wooden board, make a kennel with two spoons and put one on each leaf.
This can be served as appetizer or a part of meze/tapas meal with few others. Sometimes I serve it as canapé for special events. However, it’s definitely an everyday meal, it can be lunch or light dinner with chopped tomato salad. Vegetarian, vegan approved.