Tacos are certainly a year-round food (and one of my favorites), but there’s something nice about making them in the summer when you can get some good fresh veggies to really pop as a topping. It’s the little things that make a good thing a great thing!
Farm fresh crisp red and green leaf lettuce, bright and sweet multi-color mini tomatoes, perfect avocados – so much better than the off-season or bland versions of each. Being that I’m a sucker for anything pickled, I also chopped up some pickled jalapenos (organic! check the labels when you buy a jar – many have gross preservatives and artificial coloring added, so unnecessary – definitely worth buying natural/organic or making your own!) and made some quick pickled red onions (recipe below). And couldn’t resist a little Tofutti vegan sour cream on top too. It’s funny – I used to be a sour cream fanatic when eating Mexican food. And since cutting out dairy, I really never miss it – a realization that came as a surprise to me. I bought Tofutti sour cream once on a whim to try and see how it was out of curiosity, and found it to be pretty decent. I usually find avocados/guac add enough of a textural creaminess to this kind of food, but once in a while a little Tofutti is a nice add-on too. (end digression)
So. We eat a lot of Mexican food for three main reasons: 1) we love it, 2) there are lots of good authentic restaurants in our area, and 3) it’s quite easy to have a delicious, satisfying and healthy vegan meal. Go-to simple order: either a burrito or a plate with beans (whole when possible, refried if without lard), rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos and enchilada sauce. Typically the beans are black or pinto, which is fine by me. But lentils, being one of my absolute favorite foods, make for an amazing, hearty and healthy taco or burrito filler too – though one I have yet to directly encounter in a restaurant.
Spicy, seasoned lentils and lots of yummy toppings all wrapped up in a spelt tortilla – this is one for the books!
For the Spiced Lentils:
What You Need:
- 1.5 c organic green lentils
- 2 large cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
- 1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 c vegetable broth (low sodium)
- seasoning to taste (cumin, pepper, chili, cayenne, smoked chipotle)A note about seasoning: Play around with this the spices – types and quantities – and see what your tastebuds prefer. I can’t recommend smoked chipotle powder enough! Also, in a pinch, you can use a “pre-made” seasoning packet and doctor it a little if you like – but please only use a packet if you can purchase it at a Whole Foods, Natural Grocer, etc. and look carefully at the ingredient list. Avoid at all costs when it contains all other kinds of garbage (which is what is sold at most grocery stores)!
What You Do:
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat
- When hot, add the garlic and onion and saute until soft (about 5 minutes)
- Add the lentils and add seasoning (start with 1 or 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp smoked chipotle powder), stir to coat and saute for about one minute
- Add 2 cups of the broth, reduce heat to medium and cover; let the lentils simmer
- Stir occasionally; after about 10 minutes, taste the lentils and adjust seasoning as needed
- Add more broth as needed and continue to cook until the lentils are just past firm – you don’t want them to have “bite”, but don’t want them to be complete mush
For the Pickled Red Onions
What You Need:
- 1 large red onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced
- 1/2 c water
- 3/4 c apple cider vinegar (try Bragg’s!)
- 1/4 c white vinegar
- 2 tsp turbinado sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 bay leaf (I used dry)
What You Do:
- Add all liquids, sugar and salt into a small pot and bring to a boil
- Add onions and cook for one minute
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the additional seasonings; let sit to cool slightly for 5-10 minutes
- Pour everything into a glass jar
- It’s best to let it come to room temp on your countertop, but if you’re in a time crunch, put it in the fridge to chill
- These are best enjoyed chilled, so wait if you can until they’re good and cold to eat!
And when making these tacos – don’t forget your favorite other toppings. As I mentioned before, I chopped: a few cups of red and green leaf lettuce, a pint of mini tomatoes, a bunch of japaleno slices, 1 avocados, and some fresh cilantro. I also had a good habanero salsa and the Tofutti vegan sour cream to add on as well. And wrapped it all up with Rudi’s organic spelt tortillas. Go to town!