If people can post childhood photos on Saturdays and guys can grow facial hair in months other than November, I see no reason to adhere strictly to catchy hashtag holidays and observances like #TacoTuesday. Go ahead! Be bold! Wear your Friday undies on a Tuesday, don’t have fun on a Sunday, and definitely have Meatless Monday any day of the week!
I’m not 100% percent vegetarian, more like 99.999999999% vegetarian — lacto-ovo-pescatarian, if we’re really splitting hairs. I eat fish (though less-so following my recent run-in with scombroid poisoning) and eggs, and I’ll eat an obligatory square inch of turkey on Thanksgiving, but, for the most part, I’m a plant-based girl. I just feel like I have more energy and enthusiasm when I eat beans, vegetables, and whole grains, rather than big heavy hunks of meat. And, really, you can’t beat the regularity 😉
Still, I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes family, so, every once in a while, I’ll get a nostalgic hankering for a traditionally-meat-based food, like Sloppy Joes…hence the birth of these Vegetarian Sloppy Lentils.
Using a mix of soaked whole peas, medium-sized green lentils, and teeny-tiny split red lentils yields a quasi-ground-meat texture when cooked, without grinding up your favorite heifer. I also brightened up the usual Sloppy Joe sauce from its classically salty, sugary (albeit tasty) state to a more spicy, tomatoey, sophisticated version.
Though the actual hands-on time for this recipe is minimal, there is a moderate amount of assembly required — not quite IKEA-status, though, so don’t get nervous. Soaking of the dried legumes is essential. I like using the dried version over the canned to control the amount of sodium used, BUT, you just have to plan ahead to allow for a sufficiently-long presoak…al dente lentils are not particularly pleasant.
Another must for recipe success is a cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife. A dull knife should be regarded as on-par with bazookas, ninja stars, and nunchucks. Not only are you less likely to get nice, even cuts with a dull knife, but you’re also much more likely to inadvertently inflict harm upon yourself. To paraphrase a periodontist I know, protect the fingers you want to keep.
Now, I know this recipe isn’t a dead-ringer for the cafeteria Sloppy Joes you grew up eating, but would you really want that anyway? My Sloppy Lentils are a more grown-up version of the childhood classic, but if you’re really craving animal flesh, click over to my Sloppy Toms recipe for #TurkeyTuesday. Otherwise, just throw on your Sunday pair and get chopping! Happy Thursday 🙂
1/2 cup dried whole peas
1/2 cup whole green lentils
1/4 cup split red lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (you can add more, but I’m a bit of a sodium-o-phobe)
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 large sweet potato, cut in 1/4″ cubes and rinsed to remove excess starch (peel-on or naked, your call)
2 tablespoons organic ketchup
2 cups water
Serving vehicle and toppings of choice
24-48 Hours Ahead-of-time: Place dried peas and both lentils in a large, clean jar. Cover with cold water, screw on lid, and let sit on counter at least 24 hours. Drain and rinse soaked legumes. Place in a medium pot, and cover with fresh water and a lid. Bring to a rapid boil, reduce to a steady simmer, and let cook for 20 minutes. Drain. The cooked legumes can be used right away for this recipe or refrigerated for a day, until you’re ready to use them.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add celery, onion, carrot, and spices. Saute 8-10 minutes, until vegetables have softened and entire kitchen has become an aromatic spa. Add garlic, and saute 30 seconds. Whisk together tomato paste and vinegar, and add to skillet. Stir to coat the vegetables in the tomato-vinegar mixture. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, ~5 minutes. Add sweet potato, lentils, ketchup, and water, stir to combine, cover partially and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce to a steady simmer, and let cook 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened and sweet potatoes are tender.
Serve Sloppy Lentils on toasted buns or bread, topped with shredded cheddar cheese or sliced hard-boiled eggs.