When I was growing up, my mom had a group friends with whom she would hold “silver” days: Everyone in the group would chip in money to buy the host something lavish in silver (or gold sometimes) and the host in return would host a lavish Saturday afternoon gathering, rich with food and drinks. For women only. And sometimes with kids in tow.
It was in one of those Saturday afternoons that my mom dragged me to a ‘silver’ day at one of her friend’s house that I was introduced to red lentil balls… Very simple yet so very delicious. I tried several recipes before I found a version that I can replicate what I liked so much about this lentil appetizer.
Each ball is about 50-60 calories so eat with caution. They are highly addictive. Also, beware of the ‘bloat’: Bulgur expands in your tummy. Have one or two and wait for 10-15 minutes before you eat something else… Great for 20/20 lifestyles if you can stick to 2-3 of these along with some really good fish or chicken. If you are allowing yourself some wine, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or dry Chenin Blanc would be awesome with it.
Red Lentil Balls (Turkish recipe, Mercimekli Kofte)
- 1 cup red lentils
- ¾ cup bulgur (cracked wheat)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ¾ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- 4-6 green onions, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon hot red pepper paste
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt, pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils. In a 1-2 quart pan, cover the lentils with just enough water to soak in its entirety. On high heat, bring to boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the water level. While you don’t want too much water in the pan, you also want to avoid burning the lentils. You can add more water if necessary.
Once the lentils are soft and mushy, remove from heat and add the bulgur to the pan and cover. Let it sit for 20 minutes until the bulgur expands and softens. If you find the bulgur too crunchy at the end of the 20 minutes, add some hot water, stir and cover again to allow the bulgur soak up the moisture.
In the meantime, in a sauce pan, heat the olive oil on medium and sauté the onions until soft, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the lentil-bulgur mixture with the sautéed onions, the hot red pepper paste, the tomato paste and cumin. Knead it until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (I personally do not add salt since the hot pepper paste is usually quite salty. I do put some red chili flakes and black pepper though).
Add the green onions, the garlic and the parsley and knead to mix.
Take a small to medium size ball of the mixture (size of 2 walnuts, the shelled kid) and shape it into a football (American football, not soccer) with your palm and serve it at room temperature.
The individual portion should look be as tall as a roll of coins, but a little thicker, like 2-3 fingers together. You can serve it on a platter layered with lettuce, for looks if you’d like.
Here is the nutrition information I got by entering the ingredients on SparkPeople recipe calculator: