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I live in the lentil capital of the United States.
Yeah you read that right - try not to be jealous. It's actually pretty amazing- our town is surrounded by rolling hills, and those hills are covered with fields of lentils, wheat, and garbanzo beans. And this time of year, the fields are hitting their stride and we're surrounded by the lushest, greenest land you've seen.
And we celebrate that dainty little pulse every August with the National Lentil Festival. There's the world's largest pot of lentil chili, and a 5K, and a lentil cook-off where people compete to make the best lentil recipe. Things are (obviously) going to be different this year, but the cook-off will persist in a new form and I wanted to make a submission.
I wanted to take advantage of the creamy, neutral nature of lentils with an appetizer. To cook the lentils, I used a method similar to this one Carla Lalli Music recommends, making sure to skim the olive oil off the top and save for later. Then I made a pretty classic hummus by blending the lentils with lemon, olive oil, and tahini. But it lacked excitement, and needed an oily, spicy component to set it off. So I (naturally) turned to my latest obsession: chili crisp. Chili crisp is a savory chili oil with the texture turned up to 11 through the addition of fried shallot, garlic, and ginger. We've been going through it a fierce rate lately, since it is equally at home on eggs as it is on pizza. And, as you will see, especially welcome on hummus.
The oil from chili crisp pools on top of the hummus in decadent little pockets, balancing the creamy, yet nutritious feel of the base hummus. To serve, I added a variety of fresh and blanched vegetables, and some bread fried in the oil I saved from the lentils.
And it is delicious. The hummus and chili crisp combination is the right bend of creamy and crispy and spicy. The vegetables give the right combination of crisp and fresh- I especially love the blanched haricot vert here, since they're an unexpected but extremely easy addition to elevate your veggie tray life. Finish off the tray with slices of baguette, fried in the oil skimmed from the lentils. The bread takes on all of the herbal flavors from the lentils and crisps to absolute deliciousness.
It makes a fantastic snack, or appetizer, or, if you're my family, dinner while watching Wreck it Ralph.
creamy lentil hummus with chili crisp and charred lemon
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup dry green (Puy) lentils
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 1 shallot peeled and halved lengthwise
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup tahini stirred well
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar (can substitute red wine vinegar)
- ½ cup chili crisp (recipe below)
- 1 baguette, sliced
- 6 eggs hard boiled
- assorted fresh vegetables (carrots, cucumber, radishes, etc)
- 8 oz french green beans blanched
- Char lemon: Slice lemon in half crosswise. Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until warm. Place cut lemon on skillet and cook until cut surface caramelizes, darkens, and chars, about 5 minutes. Set lemon halves aside.
- Cook lentils: Place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with 5 cups of water, then add 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, and 1 shallot sliced lengthwise. Squeeze 1 lemon half into water, then place rind in pan as well. Season generously with 1 tsp kosher salt and lots of pepper. Heat mixture to a boil, then turn to a bare simmer and cook until just tender, about 20-30 minutes.
- Make hummus: Drain lentils, reserving the flavorful broth that you poured off. Place warm lentils in a food processor or high-powered blender. Add 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, and 2 tbsp oil skimmed from the broth. Blend lentil mixture until smooth. If mixture is very thick, you can add some of the liquid broth, 1 Tbsp at a time, until desired texture is achieved. Taste as you go, here, adjusting salt and pepper as desired until you have a smooth, flavorful mixture.
- Serve: place lentil hummus in a bowl, using a spoon to make swoops and scoops in the top. Place a few spoonfuls of chili crisp on top. Squeeze the remaining charred lemon half on top. Serve with toasted baguette slices, vegetables, and wedges of hard boiled egg. Enjoy!
- 4 whole shallots
- 1 ½ cups avocado or grapeseed oil
- 2 heads garlic
- ¼ cup chili flakes
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 Tbsp coconut aminos
- 2 inch piece ginger
- Peel shallots and slice very thinly (a mandoline is helpful for this step, but not required). Place shallots in a small saucepan over medium heat with oil. Fry shallots until crispy and deep golden brown— this will take 15-25 minutes. It is important to start with a cold pan and cold oil here. When the shallots are almost ready you will notice that the bubbling becomes a bit quieter as the water has been driven off. Remove shallots from oil and drain on paper towels.
- Repeat for garlic: peel and thinly slice the garlic. Fry the garlic just like you did with the shallots, using the same oil (note that since the oil is now starting warm it will take less time to produce crispy, golden garlic - 5-10 minutes) Adjust heat as needed to maintain a simmer while they fry. Remove garlic from oil and drain on paper towels with the shallots. Set aside.
- Place chili flakes, coconut sugar, coconut aminos, and ginger in a medium bowl. Heat oil in saucepan to 375 degrees F, then pour hot oil into bowl of chili flakes. Mixture will sputter and fry as the hot oil hits it, then quickly subside. Set aside to cool.
- When chili oil mixture has cooled to the touch, add garlic and shallots to the oil and stir well. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.