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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Veggie Lentil Loaf

Need a recipe for Meatless Monday?  It's not just meatless but vegan and gluten-free to boot!

A couple of months back I kept running into recipes for vegetarian versions of meatloaf.  They all sounded so delicious but the ingredients weren't practical for me.  Egg replacers, textured vegetable proteins, nutritional yeast...I don't have a problem with any of these items, I just wouldn't use them again in the immediate future.  And being as frugal as I am, I couldn't justify these purchases for one recipe.

But alas! The April/May issue of Kiwi included a recipe for veggie lentil loaf.  Not only were the ingredients "everyday" foods, but things I had in my own refrigerator and pantry.  And it called for French lentils.  I love lentils, but those lovely little lentils are nothing like their khaki cousins.  They're tiny and speckled, keep their shape and are firmer, and have much, much more flavor.  I changed a couple of things, but mainly, it's the same recipe.

Veggie Lentil Loaf

2 1/2 cups French lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1 large yellow onion
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup tahini
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup white rice flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegan barbecue sauce (I highly recommend Annie's Naturals Organic Smoky Maple      BBQ Sauce)

1.  Place the lentils in a medium saucepan, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the lentils by 2 to 3 inches.  Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

2.  While the lentils cook, prepare the vegetables.  In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and saut√© 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent.  Add the peppers and cook 5 minutes more.  Add the garlic and cumin, and cook 1 minute more.

3. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.  Place in a large bowl and set aside. 

4.  Add the cooked lentils, tahini, and lemon zest and juice to a food processor and process until mostly smooth.

5.  Add the lentil mixture to the vegetables and stir to combine.  Fold in the rice flour and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Lightly grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans and spoon the mixture into it.  Use a spatula to smooth the top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is just beginning to brown.

7. Remove the loaf from the oven and spread the barbecue sauce over the top.  Bake for another 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then allow the lentil loaf to sit for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

The Verdict: And the cheese stands alone.  I thought it was super and my husband and son thought it was Torture in a Loaf Pan.

They didn't hate it that much, but nor were they jumping for joy.  In their defense, I guess lentils aren't everyone's bag.  Favorite foods are often described as moist, juicy, succulent...and a lentil can't ever snag one of those adjectives.  Even the fancy French ones are dry.  And no matter how many vegetables and spices you add, or how much you whir the ingredients around in a blender, they don't magically become meat.  Which is a mean slight of hand trick to meat lovers.

But let's ignore them, shall we?

The original recipe calls for a single loaf pan.  Unless I fell asleep at the stove, which is entirely possible in my new baby state, this recipe makes a humongous amount of lentil mixture.  No worries as it freezes well.  It also called for ketchup instead of barbecue sauce.  Meh.  I thought, because lentils aren't quite as tasty as ground meat, it called for a little something extra.  But if you prefer ketchup, knock your socks off.

Now, speaking of this recipe making a boat load of lentil mixture--you are faced with a bit of a conundrum if you don't have a food processor and use a blender.  Yes, for all the cooking I do, I don't have a food processor.  Crazy, right?  But if you're a poor soul like myself, you'll have to blend your foods in batches.  Lots of batches. 

If you're a safe cook, the two items that might seem a little outre are rice flour and tahini.  Whole Foods generally sells rice flour by the pound, so you could potentially buy just a bit if you have one near you.  Otherwise, regular white flour would work, I imagine.  It just wouldn't be gluten-free anymore.  If you were to buy a larger amount, you can use the rice flour in rice pudding.  It's how my husband makes it and now that I write it, I'll have to get that recipe for you all.  As for tahini, it's great to have on hand to make homemade hummus.  There is nothing easier or more delicious than homemade hummus.  Substituting it might be a bit tricky; it's a bit like nut butters (almond, cashew) but if you don't have tahini, you probably don't have nut butters laying around.  Peanut butter is a possibility, but peanuts are fairly strong.  I can't guarantee how much it would change the taste.

If you're a fan of lentils and enjoy lots of vegetables, I think you'd love this recipe.  If you're feeding it to serious carnivores, don't even try to sell it as meatloaf.  It's nothing like meatloaf.  And even your honesty might not convert the meat lover.  Don't tell me you weren't warned.

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