When I was a little girl there was a restaurant in our small town, owned by a Hispanic man and his Asian wife. They sold pizza and Mexican food. This may be the most multi-cultural occurrence our tiny community ever saw. (Honestly, that isn’t saying much. I’m pretty sure at least 75% of the town came from the same blonde-haired, blue-eyed ancestors). The food at that place was so fabulously sloppy and delicious that I can still remember the exact smell and taste of it, even though they retired and moved away over a decade ago.
It wasn’t just food. It was fud. (Click here to read more about, “fud.”)
My mother used to love their freakishly ugly brown-sauce covered enchiladas. It looked like…. well… yeah. Let’s not go there.
As a child, I would look at her plate and think, there is no way that tastes good!
Then, one brave day I took a nibble and I was hooked on Mexican food for life. I got older and traveled to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and, yes, even Mexico, and had the opportunity to try a lot of regional variations. I loved them all!
I thought it was a bonus that a huge amount of Mexican food could be made with very inexpensive ingredients like beans and rice and ground beef. Then I started being fussier about organics and GMOs. Suddenly ground beef, at $8/pound or more, became a luxury. Chicken is even more expensive. I feared that my weekly (bi-weekly? semi-daily?) taco feasts had come to an end.
Then I discovered the lowly lentil.
Meat is expensive. Beans can take hours to cook. But lentils… those teeny tiny little things I’d only ever encountered in elementary art projects and soup… cook up in minutes, have a lovely flavor, are super filling and cost less than $1/pound.
My love affair with Mexican food was saved!
Lentils are a fabulous alternative to meat in tacos (and other Mexican food, as well). I’m not going to say, “you’ll never miss the beef!” It makes me crazy when vegetarians insist the plant-based version is the same as meat. Meat is one thing. Lentils are something else. It’s not the same, but it is good and it is hearty enough to satisfy Handsome Hippie Hubby’s carnivorous appetite. They are also “normal” enough in taste and appearance that my kids will eat it without complaint.
As for the salsa it is my absolute favorite. I’m a huge fan of super-spicy anything so it may seem strange that I love this 100% mild salsa but the flavor is so fresh and it’s so easy to make that it has become a staple in our house. I have “heated it up” before by dicing a few peppers and tossing them in but I truly think this particular recipe is better without them.
So without further ado, here’s my recipe for lentil tacos with homemade salsa. I hope you love it!
2 cups dried lentils
1-4 oz. can of diced green chilies
1 TBSP each of chili powder, onion powder and cumin. (This makes a pretty strong flavor. If you like your food more mildly seasoned use a little less.)
Note: One of the best things about lentils is that they don’t need to be soaked ahead of time. Just toss them, dry, into the pot. However, they will soak up A LOT of water. I measured last time and it was almost 7 cups of water for 2 cups of lentils!
Toss it all in a pot, cover it with water and let it simmer away until the lentils are soft – about 20 minutes.
While that’s cooking, you can make your salsa:
4 medium-sized tomatoes
1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 clove of garlic
Dice everything as tiny as you can get it. Drizzle the lime juice over the top… maybe a teaspoon or so. Salt to taste and mix it all very well. Making this an hour or two ahead of time and letting it sit so that the flavors can blend will take it from quite good to totally amazing.
That’s all there is to it! Put your lentils in a flour or corn shell. Add some salsa and cheese or olives or whatever else you love to put on your tacos and enjoy every bite!
I didn’t measure portions but the amounts, above, will make approximately enough food to feed the state of Rhode Island. If you are cooking for one or two people I would suggest cutting it down a bit.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!