Spiced Red Lentil Dip-or-Spread

Doug and I were invited to a ‘Super Bowl’ dinner last Sunday, even though we never actually planned to watch or discuss the game. It was just an excuse to get together.
Spicy Red Lentil Dip

I
offered to bring any appetizer our hostess wished. She left the
choice up to me, stating that I should bring whatever I’d be cooking for
The
Armenian Kitchen
.


I’d thought about making hummus, but I’d made it numerous times, and decided it’s become too
‘ordinary’, despite its variations. 




Instead, I opted to make ‘Spiced Red Lentil
Dip – or Spread’. When one thinks of red lentils, they usually associate it with soup or, if
you’re Armenian, vospov kufteh.



Red lentils are perfect for this dish because they cook very
quickly, are nutritious, and make a surprisingly delicious substitute for hummus!
Spicd Red Lentil Dip – or- Spread
Yields about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils, rinsed, drained and sorted through
1 bay leaf, optional
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. MILD** red pepper paste (available in Middle Eastern
stores) NOTE: tomato paste may be substituted.
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (Use more or less, according to your
taste.)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley leaves
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Garnishes: Olive oil, cilantro
or parsley leaves

Directions:

Rinse the lentils with cold water and drain. Sort through
lentils, removing any foreign particles.

Place the lentils, bay leaf (if using), and 1
tsp. salt in a medium saucepan. Add about 4 cups of water to cover the
lentils. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring now and then. As
a foamy residue rises to the top, remove and discard it using a slotted spoon.

Cooked, drained red lentils

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the
lentils are very soft and tender, about 10 minutes. 



Before draining the lentils, save some of the cooking liquid. You might need it later to thin-out the dip.


Drain the
lentils in a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the bay leaf (if used); allow the
lentils cool for about 10 minutes in the strainer.

Seasonings mixed and ready to use

In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, red pepper
(or tomato) paste, cayenne pepper, garlic, cilantro (or parsley), cumin, and
olive oil. Set aside.


**NOTE: If using HOT red pepper paste, omit the
cayenne pepper.

Place the lentils in a food processor. Add the blended seasonings.
Process until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the
bowl.

Adjust seasonings, if necessary, adding salt if needed. Transfer
dip to a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours before
serving allowing the flavors to develop.



Bring to room temperature. Before serving, drizzle the top with a little olive oil,
and garnish with cilantro or parsley leaves.



NOTE: If you make this a day in advance, the red lentils will firm-up. You could leave it this way and use it as a spread, or thin it out with some of the reserved cooking liquid and another drizzle of olive oil, and use as a dip.

Serve with your favorite crackers, pita chips, or
vegetables.

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