The humble lentil takes on one of my favorite meals- taco salad- and nails it!
A few quick words about lentils. For starters they are dirt cheap! I’m talking, less than a dollar a bag! Secondly, if you don’t treat them right, they will most likely taste like dirt too! But, don’t fret, because when they are cooked and prepared properly they add wonderful texture to a meal and absorb whatever flavor you throw at them!
Lentils do not need to be soaked before hand. They can go right into the pot along with water or vegetable broth (or a blend of the two which is what I prefer). The important thing is to keep an eye on them to make sure that there is enough liquid in the pot so that they are always covered by a layer of water/broth. Some people like to cook their lentils like rice (that is, just enough water so that when the lentils are done they will have absorbed all of the water and be fully cooked) but in my experience that is
nearly impossible! Ever since I gave up on that romantic notion, I have been able to prepare delicious lentils every time. What you want to do instead is start out with the recommended amount of water/vegetable broth, but towards the end of the cook time add 1/4-1/2 cup of hot water at a time to make sure that the lentils are always covered. When your lentils have been cooking for the minimum recommended amount of time, start to scoop about 5 lentils out every 3-5 minutes, allow to cool and then give them a little nibble. They WON’T taste good at this point- mushy and bland- that’s okay! When they are fully cooked (i.e. not at all crunchy) then they are done! Dump them out over a fine strainer to get rid of the excess liquid.
Another quick note here: if you have a bit going on in the kitchen and can’t immediately transfer the lentils back to the saute pan and begin flavoring them up, then rinse them with cool water so that they don’t continue to cook and get mushy.
Lentils Taco Salad
- 1 c red lentils
- 2 c water
- 1 c + 3 tbsp vegetable broth
- 1/2 white onion
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 packet of taco seasoning FOR THE FAJITA VEGETABLES
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 3-7 cloves of garlic, minced
- zest of 1 lime (or 2 tsp lime juice)
- zest of 1/2 of 1 lemon (or 1 tsp lemon juice)
- 1/2 tsp salt-free seasoning
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp jalepeno salt FOR THE SALAD
- 1 batch of No-Cheese Fiesta Sauce
- 1 batch of Homemade Salsa (Red)
- 1 head of lettuce, chopped
FOR THE LENTILS
1. Place Lentils, vegetable broth, and 1 c of water in a 3 qt sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Then drain off excess water using a fine strainer. (See above for tips)
2. Chop the white onion and saute in a pan over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until onions start to turn translucent (adding water, vegetable broth, or lime beer 1 tbsp at a time to prevent sticking). Add the tomato paste and 3 tbsp vegetable broth to pan and stir. Add in the lentils, stir. Add the taco seasoning packet, and stir until well mixed. Set aside.
3. In a separate pan, saute the red onion for 3 minutes, or until onions start to turn translucent (adding water, vegetable broth, or lime beer 1 tbsp at a time to prevent sticking). Add garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add peppers and and zest of lime and lemon and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add in remaining seasonings and stir.
4. To build the salad: fill a bowl 1/2 way with lettuce. Pour on No-Cheese sauce, follow with fajita vegetables and lentils and top with salsa.