Red Lentil Fingers (Mercimekli Köfte)

This dish is made all over Turkey and served as an appetizer, main course, side dish and as an afternoon snack. My first attempt to make this dish was not successful. Neither were my second or third attempts. The reason is because you have to get the measurement of water, lentils and bulgur just right. If you make this recipe and it turns out runny, just put it in the oven for 10-15 minutes before adding the green onions and parsley. You may even use the microwave instead of oven. This is what I did when I encountered this problem during my prior attempts and it worked perfectly.

During grad school, the Turkish professor at the university used to make these lentil koftes when she invited the few Turkish students to her house. They tasted so good. I loved them so much that I couldn’t help but fill up on these koftes while other excellent foods were waiting to be eaten.

If you ever feel like having a light lunch or dinner, these are very easy to make. This finger food also can be perfect for taking to a pot luck dinner. Wrap in lettuce leaves and enjoy!

2 cups red lentils
2 cups bulgur (fine grind)
5 ½ cups water
2 bunches green onions (chopped)
1 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
½ - ¾ cup olive oil
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp red pepper paste
1 ½ tsp salt

5-6 leaves of romaine lettuce

Wash the lentils and place in a large pot with water. Cook on medium heat until the red lentils are cooked and soft. Usually about a half hour should be sufficient for the lentils to be soft. Add the bulgur to the lentils, mix thoroughly and cover for a half hour. The bulgur will become soft from the moisture in the pot. The mixture of the lentils and bulgur will thicken. Place in a deep bowl and let it cool.

In the mean time, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and sautee or 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste, red pepper paste and stir until the pastes dissolve. Add the parsley and stir for 1 minute. Pour this sauce on the lentils and bulgur. Sprinkle the salt on it. Once the oil cools, knead the contents of the bowl. Mix thoroughly to avoid lumps and to make sure ingredients are integrated well.

Prepare a large plate and place the lettuce leaves on it. Pull an egg sized amount of the mixture, hold it in your palm and press it gently with your fingers. Place it on the lettuce bed. Keep doing this until the lettuce bed is covered with the lentil fingers. You may create a lettuce wrap with the red lentil fingers by placing a red lentil finger in a lettuce leaf and wrapping it. Serve at room temperatures.

Tip: Whenever I make any food that involves kneading or mixing with hands, I use gloves to protect my hands and nails. If you knead bulgur dough that involves tomato or red pepper paste, your hands will take a reddish color. Therefore, I started using regular gloves that are used for First Aid or the ones you see at your doctor's office. At first they may feel uncomfortable to cook with, but they do help protect your hands and nails. I think they come in one size so if your hands are small, the gloves may not fit well. In this case, I tie them at the wrist so they fit correctly.

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