There’s a common misconception that when you become vegetarian (or vegan) you will have to eat a very restricted diet. While that might be true on occasions when you dine out at a standard American restaurant, eating meatless actually has the ability to open your eyes to a whole new world of cuisines.
In fact, it wasn’t until I transitioned to vegetarianism twleve years ago that I started to discover so many new foods. It’s almost as though it forced me to get creative and think outside of the box of meat and potatoes.
Even to this day I find myself discovering new dishes that delight my senses. This lentil kibbeh, for example, is a Middle Eastern recipe that I didn’t even know existed until recently. There are several variations of the dish from different countries, but it’s typically made from a combination of bulgur wheat, red lentils, and minced onion.
Most of the ingredients are readily available at standard grocery stores, except for red pepper paste, which is essentially a combination of muddled red bell pepper and red chili peppers. Because I had trouble tracking it down at my local store, I went ahead and substituted minced red bell pepper with crushed chili pepper and a touch of cayenne.
Overall the recipe is fairly to easy to make, you just have to be patient while you let the lentil and bulgur mixture cool. This process helps the excess moisture absorb so that it will be easier to roll into balls.
Some lentil kibbeh recipes call for eating it raw, while others call for frying or sometimes baking them before serving. To keep the dish light and healthy, I chose to bake them for about 15-20 minutes, which is just long enough for the outside to get golden and crispy. They are best served with fresh squeezed lemon juice and topped with plain yogurt. If you have some warm pita on hand, that would make a nice addition as well!
If you are able to find Middle Eastern red pepper paste, then you can omit the minced red bell pepper, crushed red pepper and cayenne. Add the paste at the same time as the tomato paste while cooking the onion.
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