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Meatless Mondays: Curried Lentils and Rice

I honestly cannot be bothered to photograph my food, so please pardon me. (Unlike my brother, whose vacation photos consist largely of pictures of what he ate…)

But one of my favorite REALLY EASY things to make when I want something seriously health-ful, easy, meatless, and requiring not many ingredients is this lentil-and-brown-rice dish–delicious and easy, good complete protein, whole grain, just absolutely nothing bad to say about it.

Curried Lentils and Rice

In a saucepan with a lid, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. (You could use broth if you’d like.)

Add

  • 1 cup brown lentils (rinsed and picked)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 tbs or so curry powder or garam masala of your choice
  • 1 28 oz. can (or quart jar) diced tomatoes with their juice

Stir and bring back to a simmer; cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until rice and lentils are cooked but not mooshy.

That’s it. You may want to play with the amounts of spices, you may decide to add onions or garlic or sauteed mushrooms or other veggies.  You may wish to omit the tomatoes. You can do pretty much whatever the heck you want; it’s still delicious. The lentils and rice take about the same amount of time to cook (don’t substitute white rice, or it’ll go to mush before the lentils are done!), and all that really matters is having two cups of water to one cup of lentils/rice.  This makes about 7 cups, which would probably feed 3-4 people, or 2 with lunch leftovers…

If you don’t have curry powder or garam masala–you can make do with your own spice blend, even if you don’t have all the ingredients.  Curry powder recipes are available all over the internet, but basically they seem to be a combination of coriander, cumin, and turmeric, with maybe a little cayenne if you like the heat. (I happen to love Pensey’s hot version…)  Garam Masala, an Indian spice blend, is another where there are about as many versions as there are Indian grandmas who make them, and it’s a lot like curry only you usually have some “sweet” spices like cinnamon, cloves and/or cardamon, and leave out the turmeric. (By the way, to really do this right you’d toast the spices in the pan first, then grind them, and THEN start the rest of the recipe; I really don’t ever do that…)

Which is to say, if you have cumin and cinnamon but not the others, throw some of that in with some black pepper, and it’ll probably be delicious. Futz around with spices, and don’t be afraid to mess things up.

Enjoy!

Lentil Taco recipe

So, after yesterday’s beef rant…below is a recipe for an “alternate” taco, with no meat at all.  Does it taste like beef? Can you tell the difference? Well…no, it doesn’t, and yes you can.  But it’s still yummy. And made in quantity and stored in the freezer, it’s pretty labor-light.

Tasty Lentil Tacos
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 12 taco shells or lightly toasted corn tortillas (taco shells are easier; corn tortillas can be fried or grilled to a little crispy, sort of floppier than regular taco shells but in my opinion way yummier.  And at least in Chicago, no “authentic” Mexican restaurant serves the pre-shaped-Taco-Bell kind of taco shells…)

Optional garnishes: (IMO, with almost anything that’s an adapted “used to be meat” recipe, the more garnishes and seasonings you put in, the less you’ll miss the meat.)

  • Grilled or sauteed seasoned bell peppers and onions–I tend to make a lot of this and then throw it into various things. I’ll recipe this one of these days and reference back to here.
  • shredded lettuce
  • chopped fresh tomato
  • shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, pepper jack, whatever you like!) (If you live in a place where Mexican groceries are easily available,  Chihuahua cheese is the best.  It’s delicately flavored, but also really high-fat.)
  • mediterranean yogurt or yogurt cheese (or sour cream–but it doesn’t have the Good Stuff in it yogurt does.)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Mash lentils slightly.
  2. Stir in salsa. Spoon about 1/4 cup lentil mixture into each taco shell. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and optional yogurt or yogurt cheese. (Or sour cream)

(recipe adapted from original version, found at allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tasty-Lentil-Tacos/Detail.aspx)