Month of July: “Purple Citrus Sweet Perfume” Recipe: Red Lentil Kofte with Pomegranate and Cilantro Salad

“I don’t think I regret a single excess of my responsive youth-I only regret, in my chilled age, certain possibilities and occasions I didn’t embrace.” Henry James

This recipe comes from a vegetarian cafe in Istanbul, a place on earth with a long history. I like history and I am deeply drawn to others who want to create a history with me.

In 1995 Abby and I met in the Smoky Mountains for a reuniting hiking adventure. She lived in Wisconsin and I in New York. We packed our gear and set out on a weeks adventure on the Appalachian trail. We came across hummingbirds, youth groups, odd loners and friendly trail blazers. We met a forest ranger who warned us of a lesbian couple who had recently been murdered on the trail. Awful and chilling! We wondered if he assumed we were lesbians too. Abby was suspicious and imagined that the park ranger was just a cover. We shivered at the thought and hightailed away and down the trail as fast as we could. We made campfires, filtered our water, ate dozens of packages of ramen noodles, oatmeal and other disgusting freeze dried camping food. But we didn’t care, we were happy. We had time to share the beautiful vistas from the mountain ridges, cool off in the fast moving creeks and just spend precious moments together in the grandness of unspoiled nature. In town we purchased hand crafted wooden hummingbirds and brooms. To this day that bird still hangs in my kitchen.

Looking back over our history I still struggle with regret. Regret for not moving back to Wisconsin, back to the alluring and magical Kickapoo region which felt so much like home to me. Regret for not making a consistent effort to share more of my life with her despite the distance and family obligations. Regret for the silent years. Regret for not being more selfish about my own individual needs and regret for learning very late how to authentically access my internal guide. Somehow it seemed our connection was enough to sustain us, but was it really? Were we just making do with the hand we had been dealt? A lifelong coping mechanism for us both. Regret is a relentless companion these days and I hope in time that I can accept everything and truly truly come to believe that life is as it must be.

Ingredients: FOR THE KOFTE: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 large red onion finely chopped, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon za’atar, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1/2 cup red lentils, 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, 2/3 cup finely ground bulgur, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, 3 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon of mild red pepper paste or tomato paste. FOR THE SALAD: seeds of 1 pomegranate, 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro., grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon, 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

  1. To make the kofte heat the olive oil in a saucepan and saute the red onion for 2-3 minutes, add spices and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the lentils and pour in the pomegranate molasses as well as 1 and 1/3 cup of water and simmer for 8-10 minutes until lentils are almost done. Add the bulgur and season, combine. Cool. Once cool, stir in the cilantro and paste. Cover for 30 minutes in refrigerator.
  2. To make the salad: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
  3. To serve: Shape the kofte mixture into mini balls and make a small indentation in the center of each. Spoon in the pomegranate and cilantro salad.

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