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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