This dish began as a craving for some sort of lentil taco “meat”—a filling that I could use in breakfast tortillas and burritos and bowls through the week. I’ve made dishes like this before (there’s a recipe in Choosing Raw) and enjoyed having them around as a protein-rich component for meals. This time, I thought, I’d come up with a streamlined formula.
As I was making the dish, I guess my need for time-saving, one-dish recipes took over, as it often seems to when I cook these days. No sooner had I prepared the lentil component than I thought about how likely it would be that I’d pair it in rice, even if it ended up in a burrito or a bowl. And since it was almost dinnertime, and I was hungry, I decided to mix it up with the rice right then and there. This one-skillet spiced lentil walnut rice is what resulted, and while it’s not exactly what I’d planned on, I’m pretty happy about it.
It comes together without too much fuss, especially if you have a can of lentils and the rice pre-cooked. I started by making the lentil walnut “meat” in my food processor: just a mixture of cooked lentils (if you’re not using canned, you’d cook about 2/3 cup dry, which will give you a scant 2 cups cooked), walnuts, tomato paste, nutritional yeast for savoriness, and spices.
You could stop right here and use this as a component for other meals, as I originally planned to. Or, you could sauté some onion, add the lentil/walnut mixture to the skillet and warm it up, add some tomatoes and chopped zucchini (or another vegetable), and then stir in cooked rice. I used frozen brown rice, which has been a time-saving staple for me this year. Thanks to that, the whole dinner was ready in less than thirty minutes.
It’s a simple meal, but it’s been giving me all of the things I need to fuel studying these days: complex carbs for energy, plenty of protein (over fifteen grams per serving), some healthful fat from the walnuts to keep me full, and some vegetables for fiber and phytonutrients. It’s the definition of a power plate, and I appreciate its versatility along with everything else. At this point, I have indeed stuffed it (along with some steamed kale) into a wrap and called it a burrito, and I’ve served it bowl-style with roasted broccoli and some leftover baked tofu.
Lots of possibilities, but a simple bowl of the rice is a very good breakfast or lunch, just the way it is. Here’s the recipe.
- 1/3 cup walnut halves or pieces
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (1 can, drained and rinsed, or 2/3 cup dry lentils of choice, boiled till tender and drained)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (or a few tablespoons vegetable broth or water)
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium sized zucchini or yellow squash, ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and chopped into 1/4" slices
- 3 cups cooked brown rice (or another grain of choice—quinoa is also great!)
- 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Optional toppings: nutritional yeast, vegan cheese sauce, hot sauce
- To make the lentil walnut "meat," place the walnuts and seasonings in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Process for about 1 minute, until everything is ground into a meal. Add the tomato paste and the cooked lentils. Pulse until you have a crumbly, uniform mix (see photo above—about 15 seconds of pulsing).
- Heat the oil, water or broth in a large skillet (one that has a lid) over medium heat. Add the onion and zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and clear. Add the lentil walnut meat and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes, or until the lentil and walnut mixture has heated through. Finally, stir in the rice and tomatoes.
- Warm all ingredients through, stirring gently. Add the lime juice. Taste the mixture and add as much salt and freshly ground pepper as you like. Serve hot, with nutritional yeast or a sauce if desired.
I’ve opted to serve my rice with nutritional yeast for extra umami and a little cheesy flavor. But I’d love to try it with this cheese sauce, this cashew queso, or maybe even some yum sauce.
Is this supper so vastly different from my rice, beans, tofu and greens? Not really. Is it the most creative dish I’ve made all year? Also no. But I’m grateful for simple things lately, and these kind of nutrient-dense grain skillets are high on the list. This is a particularly nutritious one, and if you try it, I hope it’ll fill you up as well as it has satisfied me.
Continuing to chug away at things here, slowly and with focus. Wishing you a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and I’ll be back on Sunday with recipes and reads!