In Ottolengthi We Trust: Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin

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Look no further than Jerusalem…or Plenty…or Plenty More. Many of of the vegetarian meals I cook stem from the Yotam Ottolengthi derivations found in these revered pieces of food scripture. Perhaps his greatest strength lies in the fact that he can meld a whole cast of Middle Eastern flavors together, while simultaneously adding touches of Western flair. Simply put, Yotam’s creations assuage my hunger in ways that other vegetarian recipes cannot. I would even go as far as to say his creations fall under the umbrella of vegetarian comfort food. His ‘Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin’ recipe proves to be no different.

My girlfriend and I paid a visit to Kalustyans in New York City last weekend, seeking out everything from puy lentils to Calabrian chiles and everything in between. Calling Kalustyans a food mecca wouldn’t even do it justice, as they boast just about every specialty food item you can imagine. Any spice, any pepper, any dried flower — you name it. Many of New York’s finest chefs frequent Kalustyans in search of their own specialty ingredients, in an effort to bolster their own culinary repertoires.

Puy lentils hail from the Le Puy-en-Velay region in France and are considered the tastiest of lentils. Green in appearance, robust and peppery in flavor, puy lentils also hold their shape tremendously well during cooking. Furthermore, lentils serve as a great protein substitute for meat and the hard-boiled egg musters up even more. Admittedly, trying to find protein alternatives other than meat and fish can be arduous at times, but this puy lentil and egg combination is a worthy stand-in.

The crushed puy lentils are bolstered by tahini and cumin, both of which gave this dish great depth of flavor and texture. The prominence of the tomatoes gives rise to a more moist lentil dish and the lemon juice serves as a flavor brightener. The first time I made this, the dish was too dry due to a shortage of tomatoes in my kitchen, and it made quite a difference to have more on hand during the second go-round. The cilantro, hard-boiled egg (I did a 7-minute boil – think “ramen”), and paprika finish enhanced the lentils both visually and in overall flavor. I really enjoyed the soft, crushed consistency found within this Yotam staple.

All hail the rise of the (puy) lentil. #InOttolengthiWeTrust

Crushed Puy Lentils with Tahini and Cumin
Yields 4 portions

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1 c. puy lentils
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more to finish
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 c. cilantro leaves, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, skinned and diced
4 tbsp tahini paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
½ small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
Paprika, to garnish

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the puy lentils. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until cooked. Drain lentils and set aside.

Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, of the cilantro, and the cooked lentils. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the tahini, lmeon juice, 4½ tbsp. of water, a tsp. of salt, and a good sprinkle of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, stirring, for a few minutes more, until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up and you get a thick, porridge consistency.

Spread out lentils in a bowl or on a flat plate, run a fork through to make a wavy pattern on top, and add the sliced onion, remaining cilantro, and one last drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm with the side of hard-boiled eggs.

Notes:
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolengthi’s Plenty More

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