½ cup dried black beluga lentils, rinsed
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2 cups water
2 pieces kombu (dried seaweed, about 2 inches by 2 inches)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1½ tablespoons highest-quality extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole or low-fat buttermilk
Canola or other vegetable oil, for frying
½ cup creme fraiche (may substitute low-fat sour cream or Greek-style yogurt)
Coarse sea salt (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
For the "caviar": Rinse the lentils. Combine them with the water, kombu and salt in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the mixture is barely bubbling around the edges; cover and cook until the lentils are just tender, 20-25 minutes. Allow the lentils to cool in the liquid.
Discard the kombu, then drain the lentils and stir in the olive oil.
For the blini: Combine the potato, water and butter in a microwave-safe dish; cover and microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes, until the potato is tender. Cool.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk in a small bowl.
Run the cooled potato mixture through a ricer into the bowl with the flour mixture. (Or mash very thoroughly with a potato masher or fork.) Whisk the egg-buttermilk mixture into the flour-potato mixture.
Pour 1 tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once it shimmers, add batter 1 tablespoon at a time to form small pancakes. (You'll be able to fit about 5 blini at a time in a 12-inch skillet.) Cook until bubbles form all over the blinis' surface and the blini are deeply browned on one side, 2 to 3 minutes; carefully flip and cook on the second side, then transfer to a plate. Working in batches, cook the remaining blini, adding oil to the pan between batches if it looks dry.
To assemble: Top each blini with creme fraiche and a teaspoon of beluga lentils. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired, and with fresh dill.
Serves six to eight (makes 24 to 30 blini).
Adapted from "The Southern Vegetarian" by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence (Thomas Nelson, 2013)