Cook | Stir up passions with lentils of love

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, matchmaking and joy. It has become a kind of Jewish Valentine’s Day in Israel and is seen as a good day for marriages. This year the daylong celebration starts at sunset on Aug. 18.

Lentil cakes or pancakes (ashishot) are mentioned in the Song of Songs as one of the foods of love, and lentil cakes are now said to be part of the holiday in Israel.

Of course, the Torah didn’t provide a recipe or a specific description for the lentil cakes or pancakes. My interpretation uses flavors inspired by the Jews of southern India to make two delicious desserts.  The red lentils add a depth and earthiness to these sweets for your sweet.

My gluten-free, parve and vegan Chai Spice Cupcakes with Red Lentils are fudgy, dense and easy to make (all the ingredients are mixed in a blender).

Sweet Red Lentil-Stuffed Crêpes are filled with sugar, coconut, red lentils, nuts and cardamom. They are quick to prepare using premade crêpes (usually found in the produce section of supermarkets).

Chai Spice Cupcakes with Red Lentils

Makes 6

3/4 cup uncooked red lentils

1/4 tsp. salt, divided

1/2 cup almond flour OR almond meal

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tbs. cornstarch

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

4-6 Tbs. plain almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 6-hole cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

Rinse and place lentils in pot.  Cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stir in 1/8 tsp. salt. Cover and keep at a simmer until soft and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain.

Put drained, cooked lentils, almond flour, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. salt in blender jar. Add 4 Tbs. of almond milk. Blend, stopping blender and scraping down sides as needed until completely smooth, adding additional 1-2 Tbs. of almond milk if needed.

Divide into prepared tin. Bake 28 minutes until top springs back when touched. Remove from oven. Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then place on cooling rack.

Sweet Red Lentil-Stuffed Crêpes

Makes 4

4 purchased or homemade 9-inch crêpes

1/4 cup uncooked red lentils

1/8 tsp. salt

1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup grated, dried unsweetened coconut

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

2 Tbs. water

1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup slivered almonds OR cashew pieces

2 Tbs. butter or margarine

Have ready or make the crêpes. Rinse and place lentils in pot, covered with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, stir in 1/8 tsp. salt. Cover and keep at a simmer until soft and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain.

Heat saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup coconut to the dry pan. Stir continually until golden. Stir in sugar and cardamom until mixed. Stir in water. Stir continuously until sugar has dissolved and has started to bubble. Stir in nuts. Return to simmer, then remove pot from heat. Use immediately.

For each crêpe, place 1/4 of the filling mixture in about a 2-inch-wide strip across the middle, equidistant from the top and bottom edges of the crêpe and leaving about a 11/2-inch margin to the left and right. Fold the left side over the middle, then the right. Fold the top down and then the bottom up, forming a rectangular package.

Heat butter in large fry pan over medium heat. Place filled crêpes seam sides down and fry until golden. Flip and fry on other side. Serve warm or room temperature with remaining nuts and coconut sprinkled on top.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. Faith blogs about her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.

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Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.