I thought the sumac fesenjun was so good it would be worth trying as a vegetarian dish. The sauce itself has enough flavour that not much was required to replace the chicken. The recipe I came up with is easy to prepare, nutritious, and really delicious. I simply used a mixture of buckwheat and green lentils with seasoning. The balls can be prepared and frozen, with or without the sauce. First, a couple of points about the ingredients I used.
Buckwheat is not wheat, it contains no gluten, and is not even really a grain, although it serves the same purpose in cooking. It is a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel making it a good substitute for people sensitive to wheat or other grains containing protein gluten. Health benefits are just too numerous to list here, but it is easy to find sources describing this ‘superfood’ if you are interested. I recommend this blog for more information and great recipes. I used groats rather than the roasted groats often associated with kasha. Either will work here. The unroasted groats seen here are pale tan to green where the roasted ones are a darker brown.
Green lentils, or puy lentils are what I chose to use in this recipe. They take a little longer to cook than most other lentils, but have a nutty flavour and colour (they turn brown when cooked), and firm texture which worked well for this particular recipe. However, feel free to use other lentils if that is more convenient.
Sumac molasses is a substitute for pomegranate molasses, so if you don’t have access to the former, you can easily subsitute it with the latter.
Recipe for Vegetarian Fesenjun with Sumac Molasses
1 cup green (puy) lentils
1 cup buckwheat groats
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying
1 onion, chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup sumac molasses.
To make the balls: Cook the lentils in water until they are soft and almost all the water is aborbed. (They will continue to absorb more water as they cool, so don’t drain them completely if there is still a lot of water after cooking). Prepare the buckwheat as you would rice, or according to package instructions. Mix the cooked lentils and buckwheat together until they are thoroughly combined, season with salt and pepper and roll them into balls (this recipe makes 16 balls of about 2 in. in diameter). To make the sauce: Fry the chopped onion until soft, add the chopped walnuts and fry another 2 minutes. Add the molasses and remove from heat. Pour the sauce over the prepared balls, and place in a 350 F oven until warmed through – about 1/2 hour. Because there is already buckwheat in the recipe, I chose to serve them simply with steamed and sauteed vegetables.