Spicy Lentil Taco Salad

March 23, 2017

We’ve been moving a little slow getting back from vacation…as in, we got back early Monday and just finally finished unpacking everything this morning.  For the most part.  It’s a slow process whereby the suitcases sit on the floor in the bedrooms and we gradually extract items of clothing and such as we need them, until we realize that it’s still COLD in Ohio and the bathing suits and shorts and flip flops aren’t going to unpack themselves and also we just can’t stand the sight of the suitcases sitting on the floor anymore!  Exhale.  Deep breath.

 

So instead of unpacking, I have been busy cooking!  Way more fun.  This recipe is one of my faves for our family and I have been meaning to post but wanted to get better pictures.  Aaaaaand, that still hasn’t happened so we’re going to make do with what I have. The pic below is just a small sampling of some of the ingredients you can add to this dish, so keep reading for the full scoop.

 

 

This is actually a salad recipe, but you can easily make the lentils and then stuff whatever fillings you like from the salad into a tortilla, roll it up and call it a day.  Or just serve it as is, in all it's lentil taco salad deliciousness, with some spice from the lentils/black beans and flavor from the salsa, and crisp romaine and crumbled tortilla chips and creamy homemade ranch.  Getting hungry.

 

As a vegetarian, I eat lentils several times a week, and love them for their high fiber and protein content. They're also high in folate, pantothenic acid (both are B vitamins), iron and zinc.  And here I also love them for their Mexican flair.

 

 

So anyway, this meal is totally customizable for your meat loving friends and family, if you are willing and interested in dirtying one teensy additional skillet to cook up some ground turkey/beef/chicken. It’s easy to cook the lentils ahead and they reheat well for leftovers - for days if you get stuck on a favorite and keep eating it all week.  Or maybe that's just me?  Hmmm.

 

There are a few parts to this recipe, and I usually make most of it ahead of time or have on hand since we use the salsa and homemade ranch as staples around here.  You can sub store bought versions, but they probably won’t taste as good and you may be struck down by lightning from the gods of homemade foods.  But not from me.  I will just be here warning you, the homemade versions are SO GOOD with this.  No pressure though.

 

The salsa and ranch recipes are below!  Then I make the lentils, and once those are started they are really low maintenance and just sit there simmering, so you can throw together the actual salad then.  The crumbled tortilla chips and homemade ranch were missing in the picture below, and I do not recommend skipping those!

 

 

 

Salsa:

15 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

10oz can Rotel original diced tomatoes and green chiles

¼ onion, chopped roughly

2 cups chopped cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, ribs, seeds and stem removed (use 2 jalapenos for more heat)

1 tsp agave nectar

½ tsp salt

Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and process until desired consistency.  Will taste even better after 2 – 3 hours in the refrigerator!

 

Ranch:

I’m not a mayonnaise fan, so I found this mayo-free ranch recipe from An Oregon Cottage that we all love. 

 

Lentils:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ onion, diced

1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed

1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional, still good without)

2.5 cups broth (I like Better than Bouillon No Chicken)

*1 Tbsp chili powder

*2 tsp ground cumin

*1/2 tsp paprika

*1/4 tsp garlic powder

*1/4 tsp onion powder

*1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium.  Add the diced onion and saute for about 5 minutes until softened.  While the onion cooks, combine all spices into a small bowl so you can add them all at once. 

 

Add the spices and the lentils to the pan and cook for another minute, stirring. 

 

Add the broth and drained black beans, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 25 – 30 minutes.

 

Remove the lid, mash the beans and lentils a bit (to desired consistency) and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid is cooked off.  Note: if the lentils are still too hard for your taste at this point, add ¼ cup additional water and simmer until absorbed.

 

*You can sub a packet of taco seasoning for the spices, but replace ½ - 1 cup of broth with water to avoid it being too salty.

 

 

Salad:

This part is up to you and your tastes!  We use chopped romaine, corn (canned, frozen thawed, or fresh - cut from the cob and sautéed for a few minutes over medium), queso fresco or shredded Mexican cheese blend, diced red onions, crumbled tortilla chips, cilantro, and sliced cherry tomatoes. 

 

To assemble: Add desired salad ingredients to a bowl, top with the lentils, salsa and ranch, and dig in!

 

 

 

 

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