Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spicy & Smoky Lentil Taco 'Meat'

Warm weather puts me in the mood for hot and spicy Mexican food. Give me some migas, chiliquiles, guacamole, torta, stuffed chilies, whatever, as long as it's spicy and comes with something nice and cold to drink.

I thought I was brilliant coming up with lentil taco meat, but like Mr. Shakespeare said, "There is nothing new under the sun." There are a million similar recipes out there, but I think this one is one of the simplest and probably among the tastiest due to a double infusion of smoke from the chipotle powder and smoked sun-dried tomatoes.

This is a very versatile recipe. You could use this like I did in a taco, or it'd be great in a burrito, or even as a stuffing for tamales. The texture of the lentils matches what most of us think of when we think of taco meat, so there's no need to buy that expensive and fattening fake meat. In short, this is a must-try, so give it a shot.

Tacos with Spicy & Smoky Lentil Taco 'Meat' + Simple Salsa
(serves 4)

12 small corn or flour tortillas or taco shells (warmed)
lentil taco meat*
1 cup shredded smoked cheddar
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 avocados (peeled and sliced)
1/4 cup sour cream
lime wedges
simple salsa**

This is best served family-style with all of the ingredients on the table. That way, each person can concoct their own taco to their own specifications. Personally, I like it all -- especially with a little drizzle of Valentina Black.

Spicy & Smoky Lentil Taco Meat*

1 onion (diced)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 cup dry lentils (both brown and green)
1 1/2 cups water (or so)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup smoked sun dried tomatoes (finely chopped)

In a saucepan oner medium heat, sauté onion in the olive oil. Once the onion is translucent, add cumin, salt, and chili powders and allow to cook for about a minute more. Add the remaining ingredients and bring it all up to a boil. Reduce mixture to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 30-45 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. (You want the lentils to be tender, but not falling apart.)

Simple Salsa**

2 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
2 cloves of garlic
lime zest
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

In a cast-iron skillet over high heat, blacken the skin of the tomatoes and pepper on all sides while getting some caramel color on the outside of the garlic cloves. Throw all ingredients into a food processor and pulse 5-10 times or until ingredients are well incorporated, but not liquid.