This recipe is adapted from Chef Ramzi’s The Culinary Heritage of Lebanon; it comes from the district of Bint Jbeil in South Lebanon.www.bintjbeil.com/index.en.html The area was subjected to so many bombing operations over a span of so many decades that I find it amazing that it managed to survive and boast a remarkable cuisine based on grains and vegetables. This is the region where roasted green wheat is produced freekeh, as well as the blend of spices and herbs called kammooneh.
This is considered a winter dish but I would advance that it is fine in other seasons as well since one eats it at room temperature. Mainly, it is very healthy, fully vegetarian, and very nourishing!
This dish is based on three main components: orange split lentils, bulgur and kammooneh or seasonings.
Kammooneh is a combination of spices and herbs specific to the South of Lebanon and in this dish, to the district of Bint Jbeil. It is made up of the following:
- hot red chili pepper
INGREDIENTS: For about 4 servings
- 1 1/2 cups orange split lentils
- 3/4 cup bulgur (extra-fine or #1, bleached or white preferably)
- 3 cups of water
- Kammooneh: 2 Tablespoons dried mint, crumbled
- 3 Tablespoons ground cumin
- 3 Tablespoons marjoram
- 1 Tablespoon hot red pepper
- 1 Tablespoon grated orange rind (Thank you Dana Jaber!)
- 1 large onion chopped very fine
METHOD: I used Mrs. Marlene Mattar’s Maeedat Marlene mina al-shark wal-gharb, for her precise instructions.
- Place the lentils and water in a pot over slow heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (cover the pot only partially) until the lentils are thoroughly cooked and there is a bit of cooking water left in the pot.
- Pour the bulgur and let it absorb the rest of the cooking water for a few minutes longer.
- Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of oil or butter in a skillet and fry the onion over slow heat until it becomes translucent. Add all the spices (adjust the proportions according to taste) and a couple tablespoons of water and let the mixture combine well and the water evaporate.
- Mix the onion and spice mixture with the lentil and bulgur mixture well.
- Let the mixture cool and stiffen a bit. Form oval-shaped balls and place on a platter; drizzle olive oil over them. Place fresh herbs such as mint, parsley, some red pepper, tomatoes, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Serve with some whole-wheat pita bread.
NOTE: You can substitute one (or more, to taste) tablespoon of red pepper paste for the spice or hot red pepper spice ground.
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