Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lentil Croquettes with Yogurt Sauce

I knew all about the pastries and breads made at Tartine Bakery and have read and baked from the books by Elisabeth Pruett and Chad Robertson. But, I didn’t know what kinds of culinary creations were happening at the restaurant Bar Tartine with co-chefs Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns. I received a review copy of the new book, Bar Tartine, and learned about their approach to crafting every part of a dish in-house. They source the ingredients to dry and grind their own powders like yogurt powder, kale powder, smoked onion powder, and citrus peel powder. They make their own cheeses like goat cheese and a cheese similar to feta as well as buttermilk and kefir. They sprout seeds and beans and soak nuts to make their nutrients more easily absorbed and grow their own microgreens. Instructions for making all of these things are in the book along with recipes for infused oils and vinegars, pickles, syrups, and stocks. All of these edible building blocks are layered into their dishes resulting in complex, fresh flavor combinations. The inspiration comes from various traditions like Hungarian, Japanese, and Scandinavian food. I keep looking back at the salads like the Wedge Salad with Buttermilk, Barley, and Sprouts; the Kale Salad with Rye Bread, Seeds, and Yogurt; and the Cauliflower Salad with Yogurt and Chickpeas. The Shared Plates chapter includes things like Buckwheat Dumplings with Paprikas Sauce, Brussels Sprouts with Dried Tuna and Tonnato Sauce, and Sunchoke Custard with Sunflower Greens. When I saw the Lentil Croquettes, I had to try them even though I wasn’t sure I’d be able to create every ingredient myself as they do at the restaurant. Of course, you can pick and choose what elements you’d like to make and what you’d prefer to purchase. I did sprout the lentils and make kombu dashi, but I bought pre-made yogurt and onion powder. 

It takes a few days to sprout lentils, so you need plan ahead. First, the lentils were soaked overnight, and then drained in a strainer, rinsed, and left sitting in the strainer over a bowl covered loosely with a towel. They were rinsed three times per day until the little sprouted tails appeared. You can refrigerate them whenever they develop the length of sprouted tails you prefer, and they can remain the refrigerator before being used for about a week. I made extra and stored the rest in the freezer. Next, I moved on to the kombu dashi which was a simple process of soaking kombu in water to soften before simmering it for about an hour. It can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. For all of the ingredients, there are options, and I chose the simpler route for the remaining items. Rather than making kefir cream, I used yogurt. A watercress sauce was to be lightly stirred into the yogurt, but watercress isn’t common here. I used some locally-grown arugula instead. The blender pitcher was chilled in the freezer, and then arugula, some of the kombu dashi, toasted and crushed coriander and caraway seeds, and salt were pureed. This was set aside and mixed into the yogurt just before serving. To start the croquettes, green onions were charred on the stovetop. I used a grill pan and pressed them with a cast iron skillet on top. They were grilled until charred in places and left to cool. In the food processor, the lentil sprouts, the charred green onions, crumbled rye bread, some ricotta since I didn’t make farmer’s cheese, garlic, a chopped serrano, store-bought onion powder, toasted caraway seeds, paprika (also store-bought and not homemade), salt, and more dashi were pulsed until the mixture formed a paste. Little balls were formed from the lentil paste and fried until crisp. I served the croquettes with the arugula sauce just barely stirred into the yogurt and a few sprigs of baby mustard greens. 

It seems like this dish could fit squarely into the hippy food category, but I promise it tastes like so much more than cardboard. The croquettes are full of savory flavor with fresh chile, garlic, and the charred onions. And, running them through the yogurt sauce on the way to taking a bite added fresh, tangy pepperiness. This is a book that will get you thinking about new and different flavor combinations and ways to add pops of seasoning to all sorts of dishes. 

Lentil Croquettes with Watercress and Kefir 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Bar Tartine

This is a dish of addictive contrasts: crisp, warm, and spicy against cool, acidic, and refreshing. Inspired by dahi vada, a fried lentil dumpling served with spiced yogurt – and one of our favorite Indian snacks – flavorwise these croquettes skew more toward Budapest than Bombay. Of course, the spice trade that passed through India brought many of the spices that characterize Hungarian food, such as caraway and paprika. We like to think that this dish reflects that journey – an Indian dumpling from the banks of the Danube. 

Makes 12 croquettes 

1 cup/240 ml kefir cream or drained yogurt 
1 1/2 tsp fermented honey, or honey 
1 tsp kosher salt 

1/2 bunch watercress, large stems removed 
1/2 cup/120 ml kombu dashi 
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground 
1 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 

1/2 bunch green onions, white and tender green parts 
1 cup/160 g lentil sprouts 
4 oz/115 g Danish-style rye or pumpernickel bread, crumbled 
2 oz/56 g well-drained farmer’s cheese or well-drained ricotta 
3 garlic cloves 
1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped 
1 tbsp sweet onion powder 
1 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and ground 
1 tsp sweet paprika 
1 tsp kosher salt 
1/4 cup/60 ml kombu dashi 
Rice bran oil for deep-frying 
Sour cherry syrup for garnish
Lentil sprouts for garnish 
Watercress leaves for garnish 
Cilantro leaves for garnish 

TO MAKE THE KEFIR SAUCE: In a small bowl, combine the kefir cream, honey, and salt and mix well. The sauce can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

TO MAKE THE WATERCRESS SAUCE: Chill a blender beaker in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. In the cold blender, combine the watercress, dashi, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, and salt and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let stand at room temperature while you prepare the croquettes. This sauce tastes best if eaten the day it is made. 

TO MAKE THE LENTIL CROQUETTES: Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium- high heat until a drop of water flicked on the surface sizzles gently on contact. Add the green onions to the hot skillet and press down on them with a weight or heavy pan. Cook until the onions begin to char, about 3 minutes. Turn the onions over, press down on them with the weight, and cook until charred on the second side, about 3 minutes. Continue until all sides are evenly charred but not completely black. Let cool to room temperature. 

In a food processor, combine the lentil sprouts, bread, charred green onions, farmer’s cheese, garlic, chile, onion powder, caraway seeds, paprika, salt, and dashi and process until a smooth paste forms. Using your hands, gently shape the mixture into 2-in/5-cm balls and put them on a large plate or sheet pan. The croquettes can be shaped a day in advance, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated overnight; bring to room temperature before frying. 

Pour the rice bran oil to a depth of 2 in/5 cm in a cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat to 350°F/180°C. Line a sheet pan with paper towels and set a wire rack on the pan. Add the croquettes to the hot oil a few at a time and fry until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer them to the prepared rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining croquettes. 

To serve, add the watercress sauce to the kefir sauce and stir gently to mix the sauces slightly without incorporating them fully. The mixture should be a swirl of green and white. Transfer the croquettes to a serving platter and spoon the kefir-watercress sauce on top to cover the croquettes. Top with sour cherry syrup and garnish with the lentil sprouts, watercress, and cilantro. 

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  1. Very healthy and extremely scrumptious! I love the presentation.

    Happy Holidays dear!



  2. I've never made lentil sprouts -- love the idea, so I should. And I'll bet these croquettes have terrific flavor! But then, I can never resist fried things. ;-) Thanks, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

  3. I love these lentils croquetes Lisa!

  4. I know i say this every time I visit Lisa and I always mean it too but, I really, really, really need to check out this book considering the major dietary changes I've made around here. I don't know how prepared I am for making so many ingredients from scratch but it sounds like this is the kind of book one can learn from.

    I have many of those "hippie" kinds of books and althought they are a wealth of information, times have changed in the kitchen. The basics may be the same but the methods have been nicely honed.

    The Croquettes sound and look amazing, Lisa. I love the way you have improvised and made the recipe your own. Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa...Bookmaked!

    1. Hi Lisa:)
      Just wanted to pop by and wish you and your family a Merry Christmas! I'm sure everyone will be eating good with you at the helm, lol...Have a Merry Lisa..."See" you next year!!!

  5. I have never used sprouted grains - I love your photos! And I love how perfectly round your croquettes look, Lisa - so beautiful! I'm drooling here. ;D

  6. These lentil croquettes look amazing and I love your beautiful plating too.

  7. I love how you presented these croquettes - beautiful work. This is a fantastic recipe. I've never sprouted lentils! On Saturday night I'm off to an outdoor carols service where we'll picnic on the grass and then later sing carols with candlelight. We're going with a bunch of friends and we're all bringing something. I imagine these would be excellent picnic fare (if only I had time to do the sprouting!) xx

  8. your croquettes are perfect little orbs of goodness! nicely done on those, and your sauce sounds magnificent as well! you're just too talented, lisa. :)

  9. Your croquettes should be served at classy gourmet cocktail parties, they look so delicious :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. we are vegetarians and this is a perfect holiday snacking idea....loved those beautifully browned,flavor loaded lentil balls...pairs really well with yogurt,thanks :-)

  11. HI Lisa, this is definitely my kind of dish, love sprouted lentils!

  12. I love your presentation, Lisa. Was organizing my pantry yesterday and found some lentils stuck in the back. When my daughter arrives today, we might just make use of them...this recipe has everything we both love.
    Have a Happy Holiday, Lisa.

  13. I just got the book not too long ago and this recipe had already perked my interest... loved the comment about
    "not tasting like cardboard"... ;-)

    Happy Holidays, Lisa! Looking forward to your culinary adventures in 2015, with a new kitchen!

  14. I adore lentils, so these croquettes sound right up my alley! They are beautiful!! Happy New Year!

  15. That just sounds like the perfect snack to me. We recently made little vegetable croquettes as well but I'm so gonna try this combo. Love the addition of e yogurt too.

  16. oH WOW! This is definitely the kind of meal I'd die to eat! I love lentils!


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