the appetizer:

Simply Zov: Rustic Classics with a Mediterranean Twist by Zov Karamardian includes recipes like Coconut Chicken Chowder with Lemongrass; Torte Milanese with Spinach; and Lentil Patties with Tomato and Cucumber.

Cookbook Profile

Lentil Patties
with Tomato and Cucumber

Lentil Patties with Tomato and Cucumber

Serves 6 to 8


These lentil patties are popular with everyone, and for good reason: This traditional Lenten dish is a delicious expression of Armenian cooking, with its subtle spices and versatility. My mother always made them around Easter time, but they're a great alternative to the usual vegetarian fare anytime of the year. Rich in protein and seasoned with cumin and Red Pepper Paste (below), these patties are a hearty appetizer when served with lemon wedges and Tomato-Cucumber Relish (below). When preparing the relish for this recipe, cut the tomatoes and cucumbers into big, chunky pieces. I also love these patties stuffed into pita bread with chopped tomatoes, green onions and parsley.

Pick through the lentils to remove any stones or debris. Wash the lentils in a sieve under cold running water until the water drains clear.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a heavy 2-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the lentils and return the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the lentils are soft and mushy, about 18 minutes.

Place the bulgur in a large bowl. Fold the hot lentil mixture into the bulgur. Cover until the bulgur softens, about 25 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until the onions are very soft and almost medium brown in color, about 10 minutes. Stir the onion mixture into the lentils and bulgur. Add the red pepper paste, salt, cumin, Aleppo pepper, black pepper and cayenne. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

Using your hands, knead the mixture until the ingredients are completely incorporated and the bulgur is soft and absorbs the liquid. Let the mixture cool completely. Mix in half of the parsley and half of the green onions. Using moistened hands dipped in warm water, shape the mixture into walnut-size patties. Dipping your hands into warm water as you work prevents the patties from sticking to your hands. Garnish with the remaining parsley and green onions. Serve the relish on the side.

Zov's kitchen note: Red lentils turn almost yellow when cooked, and the bulgur expands as it sits. This dish does not freeze well, but tastes delicious the next day.


Red Pepper Paste

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

Every summer when I was a teen, my mother and I made a pilgrimage to Fresno to pick bushels of red peppers from her cousin's orchard. As soon as we got home, she would make pepper paste to last the entire year. I remember the beautiful aroma of the sweet peppers filling up the house, and all the creative ways my mom used the paste in her cooking. I have carried this tradition into adulthood, and now, when the mood strikes and I want to bring back childhood memories, I just make this paste. Though the recipe calls for eight pounds of peppers and a day of stewing, two modern conveniences—a food processor and a slow cooker—make it relatively easy. If you don't have the time, you can find both hot and mild red pepper paste at Middle Eastern markets (see Pantry and Produce for more information). It's fantastic in so many dishes, but I especially love it in spicy flatbread, swirled into stews and soups, and as a flavor enhancer for sauces like aïoli.

Special equipment: three 6-ounce glass jars and canning tongs, both sterlized (for Sterilization Instructions, see page 86 of the book)

Place the bell peppers in a heavy 8-quart pot. Add enough water to cover the bell peppers by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Simmer until the bell peppers are soft, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Drain the bell peppers in a colander.

Working in batches, purée the bell peppers in a food processor to form the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes. Transfer the mixture into a slow cooker and mix in the salt, granulated garlic, cumin and cayenne pepper.

Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 22 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook the paste on the high-heat setting until the liquid evaporates and the mixture resembles tomato paste, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Transfer the paste to the sterilized jars and pour the olive oil on top to cover the surface of the paste. Close the jars to seal tightly and refrigerate.

Do-ahead tip: Refrigerate for up to 1 year and freeze for up to 2 years. To freeze, divide the paste into portions that are suitable to your uses and store in separate resealable freezer bags.

Zov's kitchen note: If the pepper paste has been in the refrigerator more than a few months, you might see a film around the edge of the jar. Don't worry. It is not spoiled. Just remove the film with a clean paper towel. Always use a clean spoon when taking paste out of the jar to make sure no bacteria get into the paste, which will speed up spoilage.


Tomato-Cucumber Relish

Makes 3/4 cups

This relish is a must with Che Kofta (page 32 of the book), but it also enhances Bulgur Pilaf (page 284), Greek-Style Chicken Kebabs (page 232) and Breakfast Bake with Soujouk and Potatoes (page 88). If you're using this relish with Lentil Patties (above), cut the vegetables a little larger.

In a clear glass bowl, layer the tomatoes, then the cucumbers, jalapeño, and lastly, the feta cheese. Top with the oregano and mint.

Do-ahead tip: The relish can be made up to 1 hour ahead. Cover and keep at room temperature.

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, Aleppo pepper and black pepper in a medium bowl to blend. When ready to serve, pour the dressing over the layered ingredients but do not stir the relish.

For che kofta: Spoon on top of the che kofta, scooping up the juices from the bottom of the bowl to pour over it. Serve any remaining relish alongside.


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This page created May 2011