Hey, look at me, actually posting a Foodie Friday on a Friday. It’s like maybe I sneakily wrote two posts this past weekend and scheduled one to go out ahead so I actually have something up on time for once. Who knew?
Anyway, let’s talk about Joe. In fact, let’s talk about several Joes. Vegan ones. Vegan Joes.
So I love sloppy joes – not gonna lie. They’re quick, easy, tasty, and a nice protein blast for gym days. But good ground beef is expensive, and for reasons that I haven’t really gotten into yet on this blog, I only buy good meat. So when I found this tasty recipe for sloppy joes that swaps out lentils for the ground beef, I was pretty much sold.
Lentils are awesome. They’re little, inexpensive, quick-cooking, buy-in-bulk-and-store-forever, protein-packed legumes. They come in a bunch of colors, from the thin red ones that melt away when you cook them to plain old brown ones to fancy marbled french puy ones to crazy black ones. There’s probably more out there – go to town. I usually keep a bin of brown lentils (usually the cheapest) in my pantry for things like this (or for this amazing mushroom-lentil pot pie that you should totally make if you haven’t yet).
The really awesome part about this particular recipe – originally from the Veganomicon – is that it’s super flexible. It calls for an onion and a yellow pepper. I usually have onions on hand; I rarely have yellow pepper – but it doesn’t matter! I’ve used just about everything else instead – from celery to turnips to eggplant to sweet potatoes. Today’s candidate was zucchini, left over from the package I purchased to make veggie lasagna a while back:
First, though, you need to start your lentils. One cup lentils plus 4 cups water is the standard. In my world this translates to “some” lentils and “enough water to come to the second knuckle of my first finger.” I’m a really precise person when it comes to cooking. Bring to a boil and then turn them down and simmer. They’ll take about 20 minutes – just enough time to get the rest of everything going.
So, you chop up your onion and your zucchini a bit more finely than you normally would. The weirder your extra veggie, the more finely you want to chop it. (The turnips, for example, I chopped pretty darn small.)
Put olive oil in your favorite big skillet or saucepan. This is my favorite skillet. It’s the most expensive pan I own, and it’s also my favorite – every time I use it, I’m always happy about it. Worth every dollar. It’s very sturdy, thick enough to distribute heat evenly, and 100% stainless steel – so I can throw it in the dishwasher, or the oven, or use a scrubby on it to get stuff off (unlike every other skillet in the universe, which is covered with useless, potentially-toxic, lifespan-dimishing, not-dishwasher-safe teflon). And it has an extra handle opposite the long handle so I can carry it to the table. And a lid. Amazing.
Add your onion and other vegetable, and sauté over medium-high heat until the onion is cooked enough to eat. When it’s sautéed to your liking, add your seasonings – oregano and chili powder, according to the original recipe, but you can use whatever floats your boat. Remember, adding your spices and herbs to the oil now (as opposed to the finished stuff later) makes the flavors better. This is also a good time to point out that chili powder and other “hot” spices get hotter from this treatment – so you maybe want to go easy.
Ok, rant time. One of the big reasons I don’t eat more vegetarian or vegan food is because evidently the entirety of humanity that chooses not to eat meat has decided that they must make all of their food spicy instead. No meat = must be spicy. It’s like the veg*n cop-out: “This dish would be bland without meat, but I’m too lazy to put actual flavors in it, so I’ll just dump in all these chilis instead.” Spicy food makes Lyz cry, but because flaming fiery pain is evidently the only flavor available in most veg*n cooking, most recipes are right out, brain-meltingly bland, or require me to figure out how to make them tastier. (Usually I end up adding bacon or cheese – a pro strat for vegetarian food, right?) This recipe, for example, calls for THREE FREAKING TABLESPOONS OF CHILI POWDER in a FOUR-SERVING RECIPE. That’s almost ONE TABLESPOON PER SERVING. DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE??
So I used a little less than one tablespoon in the version I made, and I often put in other spices as the whim strikes me. See, doesn’t this look amazingly delicious?
Then you’ll need some tomato paste and sauce. I was making a bit bigger of a batch here, so I’m going to use a little more than the recipe calls for – two cans of tomato sauce and one full can of paste. These little cans are stupidly cheap at Aldi and keep forever (the ones I used today expire in December… of 2015) so you should always have a few on hand.
Add your tomato products to your skillet:
And stir them up real good. Add some maple syrup (about two pancakes’ worth) and some plain yellow mustard (about two hot dogs’ worth). Bring them to a simmer and let them hang out and meld and become wonderful.
I used this time to slice up this amazing fresh loaf of bread my spouse made. This bread, as it turns out, is not vegan, and so if you’re intent on keeping your dinner vegan, use vegan bread, rolls, buns, tortillas, rice, or just eat it plain.
I gave up on eating sloppy joes on buns a long time ago. Now I eat them open-faced with a fork, because I’m old and have no sense of fun in my life anymore. But I do put home-canned bread-and-butter pickles on them, because they are amazing things and really go very well with sloppy joes.
Bonus points – this recipe keeps *very* well in the fridge, so you can make a whole bunch and then use the leftovers for lunch at work during the coming week. And it’s cheap – I think this whole giant skillet may have cost a total of $5 in ingredients.