Tuesday, January 10, 2017

78. Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce


Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

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OK.  It's time.  I'm finally going to get back on the horse with The Taco Project.  If you've followed my blog at all, you may have noticed that I took on a personal challenge to create one hundred unique taco recipes in a year's time.  Well . . . that didn't quite happen.  I got a bit overwhelmed.  I actually do have a job.  I love my job, but it does NOT involve making tacos.  It was tricky to balance it all. 

So, I hit a wall.  I needed a break.  I took a few months off from blogging.  I was disappointed in myself for missing my deadline (which would have been this past August 2nd), but I still felt like I had accomplished so much and I wanted to finish the project when I was ready.

Sigh.  I think I'm ready.  Twenty-two more recipes! 

This latest creation came on the heels of a fantastic trip to New Orleans.  I went there for a jazz conference, which was amazing in itself.  I brought Steve along, so (naturally) we did some sightseeing as well.  When I say sightseeing, I mostly mean EATING!  And drinking.

Shrimp and grits.  Roast duck.  Blackened redfish.  Red beans and rice.  Fried chicken.  Bread pudding.  Oysters.  More bread pudding.  More oysters.  More shrimp.  Beer.  Bourbon.  Repeat. 


I brought my running shoes.  They rested comfortably in my suitcase for the whole trip.  Ha ha.

I have no regrets, but I knew it would be time to get it together when we got home.  School starts next week!  There's more to life than bread pudding and bourbon!  :)

The initial idea for these tacos came from a lentil filling for a vegetarian moussaka from the Cafe Flora cookbook.  You can find it here:

Random, I know!  Great cookbook.  Great moussaka.  These tacos don't take like the moussaka at all.  I was just craving something vegetarian and relatively healthy.  The idea evolved from there, and these  
tacos ended up fitting the bill quite nicely. 

Here's the recipe:

Lentil Tacos with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

Serves 3 to 4 (about 8 filling tacos)


For the feta-yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. hot smoked paprika

Ingredients for Feta-Yogurt Sauce for Lentil Tacos

For the lentils:

1 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup green lentils
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. hot smoked paprika
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Lentil Filling for Lentil Tacos

For the roasted vegetables:

2 medium parsnips (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
2 medium carrots (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
1 medium rutabaga (about 7 to 8 oz.), diced into small 1/4" to 1/2" pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Root Vegetables - Rutabaga, Carrots and Parsnips

For the spinach:

2 heaping cups chopped spinach
1/2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tbsp. walnut oil (or olive oil)
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 to 16 corn tortillas, depending on whether you double them up

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped, for garnish


1.  Make the feta-yogurt sauce:  Place the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl or measuring cup with high sides .  (I used a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup, not the shallow bowl pictured below.)  Blend with a hand blender until the consistency is thick and relatively smooth.  Alternately, you could use a small food processor if you have one.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Set aside.

Feta-Yogurt Sauce for Lentil Tacos

2.  Prepare the lentils:  Heat 1/2 tbsp. of the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, lower the heat a bit, and cook until soft and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the lentils, water, bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp. of the salt. 

Lentils with Onion and Bay Leaf

Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the lentils are just done, about 20 minutes.  Drain the water thoroughly.  Season the lentils with the remaining 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley, and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Keep warm. 

3.  While the lentils are cooking, roast the vegetables:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a medium bowl, toss the diced vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan and spread out into a single layer. 

Diced Root Vegetables - Rutabaga, Carrot, and Parsnip

Roast the vegetables for about 15 minutes, or until tender and slightly browned. 

4.  While the lentils and vegetables are cooking (Yay for multi-tasking!), prepare the tortillas to your liking:  I prefer to heat mine in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.  After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil.  You can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven if you wish!

Corn Tortilla in Cast Iron Skillet

5.  After the lentils, vegetables, and tortillas are ready, toss the spinach:  Place the chopped spinach in a medium bowl.  Add the sherry vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to combine.

6.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place one or two tortillas on a plate.  (If your tortillas are thin, double them up.)  Spoon on a small amount of the lentil mixture.  Top with some of the spinach and roasted vegetables.  Add a generous amount of the feta-yogurt sauce (we ended up adding more than pictured) and sprinkle with walnuts.  You can also add a little sprinkle of the hot smoked paprika if you wish.  Enjoy! 

Lentil Taco with Roasted Root Vegetables, Lightly Dressed Spinach, and Feta-Yogurt Sauce

After four days of indulgence, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about how these would go over.  Steve asked me what kind of tacos we were having and I just said they were vegetarian.  I didn't mention the lentils.  Or the rutabaga.  Ha ha.

Well . . . we both liked them!  The subtle spice from the hot paprika was great!  I loved the different textures from the lentils, roasted vegetables, and crunchy walnuts.  The yogurt and feta added a salty tanginess that was the perfect topping!  Steve put Cholula on his.  I did NOT.  I love Cholula, but I didn't think these needed hot sauce.  If you think it needs some extra kick, though, go for it!

I'm not sure that corn tortillas were the best choice for these tacos.  Corn might have been one flavor too many, though it certainly wasn't a bad thing.  Next time, I might use flour tortillas.  It would certainly work with either!

The sauce was very thick, but I didn't mind.  I didn't want to dilute the flavor by adding liquid.  I put it in a little plastic bag, snipped off the end, and piped it onto the tacos.  I thought it worked pretty well. 

Steve admitted that these weren't his favorite tacos ever, but he liked them.  He said they were very "vegetarian".  Ha ha.  To me, that's a good thing, but it may not be a good thing for everyone.  Take that as you will.  :)

If you're feeling overindulgent/guilty and you want something very tasty that also feels a bit on the healthy side, these tacos are for you!  They came together pretty fast, though there was some multitasking involved. 

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  

Thanks for reading!

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