Sunday, September 23, 2012

Spiced Red Lentil Dip with Pita Crisps

From a nutrition standpoint, lentil varieties are pretty similar. But I've always found red lentils to be the prettiest, which is why I like them in this dip. If you don't have red lentils on hand, though, go ahead and use brown or green.

For the dip:
  • 1 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground caraway seeds*
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
For the pita crisps:
  • 4 (6-inch) pitas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. To prepare the dip, combine the lentils and bay leaf in a saucepan and cover with water to 2 inches above the lentils.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes - the lentils should be tender.  Drain and discard the bay leaf.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and pine nuts; saute for 5 minutes; the pine nuts should be lightly browned.  Stir in the tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, the coriander, cumin, caraway, ground red pepper, and garlic.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the lemon juice.

3. Combine the cooked lentils and onion mixture in a food processor and process until smooth.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the pita crisps.  Cut the pitas into 5 wedges each, and coat 1 side of each pita wedge with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the wedges evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Arrange the wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, until nicely golden.

Serve the dip with the pita crisps. You can also add crudites, like cauliflower, for dipping.

*You'll probably find most of the spices called for in this recipe sold already ground, with the exception of caraway seeds. Luckily, it's easy to grind your own at home from whole caraway seeds with a coffee or spice grinder, and indeed, makes for stronger fresher taste. Likewise, you can freshly grind a small amount of whole coriander or cumin seeds.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (1/4 cup dip, 2 pita crisps), Calories 159 

Tasting Notes:
I have no complaints when it comes to taste - wonderful spice to the lentil mixture, and an almost "cheesy" flavor from the toasted pine nuts and onion.  The pitas were perfectly salted and peppered, for great taste there too. My criticisms all have to do with texture. The lentil "dip" was much too thick, and I would add broth or olive oil or both to make it creamer. The pita crisps live up to their name, as crisp as a chip. Unfortunately that's not my preference, so I would only bake them for 10 minutes next time. A "4" for taste, but minus some points for those reasons.


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