Red Lentil Köfte with Tomato-Cucumber Salad


This recipe was inspired by the incredibly moist lentil patties called küfte that Ana Sortun first tried in Istanbul at Ferda Erdinc's vegetarian restaurant, Zencefil. The küfte here are fried, but they can also be served grilled, baked, or "raw." Terrific Green Salads

Red Lentil Köfte with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
Photo: © Maura McEvoy


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 medium white onion, minced

  • 1 carrot, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 cup medium-ground bulgur

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting

  • Vegetable oil, for frying

  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 European cucumber—peeled, halved, seeded and finely diced

  • 1 small green bell pepper, minced

  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)

  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

  • 8 romaine lettuce leaves, torn into large pieces


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the white onion and carrot and cook over moderate heat, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, paprika and cumin, then add the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the lentils are tender and have absorbed about three-fourths of the liquid, about 8 minutes. Stir in the bulgur and remove from the heat. Let stand until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur is softened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet; spread in an even layer to cool.

  2. Put 1/2 cup of flour in a plate. Divide the lentil mixture into 16 portions; form into 3/4-inch-thick patties. Dredge the patties in the flour, shake off any excess and set on a floured baking sheet. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working in batches, fry the patties over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Add more oil to the skillet as necessary.

  3. In a large bowl, toss the red onion with the cucumber, bell pepper and tomatoes. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the parsley.

  4. In a large bowl, toss the romaine with the remaining 2 tablespoons of dressing and arrange on a large platter. Set the lentil cakes on the lettuce. Spoon the salad on top and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.

Make Ahead

The cooked lentil patties can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat in a 350° oven before serving.

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