counting on lentils

If I’m ever stuck at home during a blizzard, a hail storm, an ice storm, etc, I hope that my pantry is stocked with lentils.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Lentils have saved me more than once.  From snobby joes to lentil salads to curried lentils over rice.  Lentils are there when I need them the most.  They never fail me.  Never.  And unlike other legumes and beans, lentils don’t take hours upon hours to go from pot to plate.  They’re quick, easy, cheap, delicious.

Tonight I was craving a big ol’ bowl of spicy, chunky, lentil tacos, which made me immediately think of my favorite recipe from Runners World.

I found this recipe back when I was training for a half marathon.  I liked the idea of fitting more nutrient packed beans and legumes into my diet.  Even better, I liked the idea that this recipe was supposed to come together in under 30 minutes. 

Step 1: Olive oil, onions, celery, garlic: sizzling on medium until tender and transparent.

Step 2: Add in lentils and seasonings, cooking for 1 minute more.

I have no idea what this “one minute” actually does for your lentil taco, but I’m not one to doubt Runners World or their chefs.  So I continue to cook the lentils, spices, and onion mixture.  For exactly one minute. 

But coming from one busy cook to the next, you truly probably don’t need to. 😉

Step 3: Add in liquid and raisins (!!!)

The raisins scared me the first time around.  I mean, really?  Raisins?? 

But honestly, I wouldn’t skip this step.  I did so once and missed the sweet lil’ addition terribly.  They offset the spiciness of your salsa and the chili powder perfectly, as they soak up all those savory flavors into one plump and juicy (slightly sweet) bite.  It’s a fun addition that I never would have thought of personally, but I am thankful that Runners World did.

Step 4: Cook for about 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.  Add water as needed.  Add salsa.

Go for a nice, spicy salsa.  I’m a big fan of Newman’s Own or Old el Paso. 😀

Voila.  Dinner is served.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I wanted a big ol’ bowl of lentil tacos for dinner tonight.  Tradition says that you roll them up in a tortilla wrap.  But tonight I opted for the non-traditional route. 

Bowl of lentil taco mixture.  Roasted veggies.  Cheezy quesadilla. 

Lentils once again saved the day.  Saved the dinner.  Quick, easy, cheap, delicious. 

It should be noted that this recipe is as forgiving as they come.  On more than one occasion, I have found myself without onions, celery or salsa.  It’s nothing that a can of diced tomatoes, some ginger, balsamic vinegar, and/or some random veggies can’t take care of. 

Also, I know the title of “lentil taco” causes you to envision—well—an actual taco, but there’s no need to stop there.  Lentils should never be limited.  I’ve put this stuff over rice and green leafy salads.  I’ve melted cheese over the top and called it a dip for my kashi crackers.  I’ve eaten it cold, I’ve eaten it hot.  I’ve eaten it every which way.  Your imagination is really and truly the only limit.

Lentil Tacos
as seen on RunnersWorld.com (with some tweaking)

  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup brown lentils, dry
  • 1-2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons dried black currants or raisins, minced
  • 1 cup salsa, plus additional for topping
  • 8 6-inch whole wheat flour tortillas

    In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauted onions, celery, and garlic in the olive oil for five minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in the lentils, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for one minute. Add the broth and raisins. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (add more water or broth as needed…I usually add in another 1-2 c. of liquid or so). Remove the lid and cook an additional 10 minutes (until lentils are thick), stirring often. Fold in the salsa. Wrap the tortillas in a damp white cotton towel and microwave on high for one minute. Spoon the lentil mixture among the tortillas. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese if desired.

Question: If you were ever to find yourself stuck home without access to a grocery store, which item would you hope to have in your pantry?

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22 thoughts on “counting on lentils

  1. Pingback: counting on lentils « Running To Slow Things Down | Cheap Quick Recipes

  2. I have to be honest, lentils scare me a little. Not sure why, but they do. I need to get over that. I think I’m missing out!

    (I love the note you put on the recipe, btw!!)

  3. I love lentils, and this looks great. I actually just made a batch last week; half of them went into a pasta sauce, and the other half went into lentil soup.

    If I were stuck at home for a while, I think I’d want to have rice on hand, and just about any kind. I could eat it for three meals a day, by just adding different ingredients together for different flavors.

  4. I never had lentils until I saw them on your blog a little while ago. I made them shortly after and realized I have been missing out! They would definitely be a staple in my pantry (in addition to oats, cereal, and a jar of AB!).

    Too many good foods to choose from!

  5. GREAT looking dish! I love your presentation. This would be perfect for me since I’ve been eyeing the lentils and salsa in my pantry and wondering what to do with them!

    Hmm tough question, but I’d have to be boring and say brown rice, just ’cause it can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes, and makes for some delicious breakfast bowls.

  6. I love this recipe! I’ve made it so many times since I saw it on your blog. I always add a ton of cilantro at the end too.

  7. Frying spices briefly in a bit of fat helps bring out the flavour. (At least, that’s my understanding.) Same thing in curry recipes, you add the spices to the hot oil/ghee and fry briefly.

    I’m not sure about the lentils, but I know that my rice pilaf recipe calls for the rice to be briefly fried (before the liquid is added) so that each grain of rice will be slightly coated in oil. I think this helps keep them separate, instead of becoming glued together.

    Your recipe looks good. I am also a fan of lentils. The natural convenience food of the legume world! I often make this one-pot curried lentil dish: http://www.food.com/recipe/curried-lentils-and-rice-55135 Another favourite from my childhood is Honey-Baked Lentils: http://www.food.com/recipe/honey-baked-lentils-58598

    • Thanks for the info!! I never knew that, but I’ll be sticking to that one minute rule from now on. 😉 I can see how the frying in fat could bring out the spices.

      Thanks again!

  8. Pingback: Lentils : : Eat Run Garden

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