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Tortas de Lentejas*

Serves 6

10 oz (1-3/4 C) red lentils, cleaned of debris
1 medium white onion, sliced in rings
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/4 C grated queso añejo or Parmesan cheese
1/2 C finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt, if necessary
4 egg whites
3 T buttermilk
2 C dry bread crumbs
18 oz Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Sauce
Cilantro sprigs

Bring 2 qt water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the lentils and simmer over medium heat until quite tender, about 15 minutes. Strain; spread lentils in a thin layer on a baking sheet to cool completely. Spray onions with cooking spray and grill them on a charcoal or gas grill until well-browned and tender (or cook them in a large skillet in a single layer over medium heat). Cool and finely chop. Meanwhile, roast the unpeeled garlic in a dry pan, turning regularly until soft, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel, and mince.

Combine lentils, onion, garlic, cheese, cilantro, and pepper. Form into 12 discs, about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Freeze until firm if time permits (will make breading easier).

Beat the eggs and buttermilk in a flat dish. Spread the bread crumbs in another flat dish. Carefully dip each cake in the egg mixture, then dredge in the crumbs, patting them firmly in place. Refrigerate if not cooking immediately. Heat a large (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium heat; add cooking spray. In batches, fry the cakes in an uncrowded single layer until brown and crusty, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Bring the Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Sauce to a boil. Spoon equal amounts onto 6 warm dinner plates. Top with 2 lentil cakes, slightly overlapping. Garnish with cilantro sprig.

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