Thursday 4 April 2013

Slightly Disheveled Joseph

One of the perks of my brother’s job is the dining room at his workplace.  It’s a beautiful room in a building more than a century old: stone floored, with marble pillars, and windows looking out toward a rhododendron garden.  I’m always honoured when he invites me to join him there.

The dining room menu is quite simple, but the food is well prepared, beautifully presented, and served by waistcoated, bow-tied staff at white-table-clothed tables set with heavy silverware.  Almost any dish will seem special when served so beautifully.

Last time I joined my brother for lunch in the dining room, one of our table mates ordered the daily special:  a Sloppy Joe.  It arrived at the table so beautifully presented that my brother exclaimed “That’s ‘way too classy to be called a Sloppy Joe!  More like a Slightly Disheveled Joseph, I think.”  The name tickled my husband so much that it has remained kitchen currency at our house ever since.

This particular Joseph is a vegetarian; made with lentils.  I adapted it from a Snobby Joe recipe shared by $5. Dinners.   My fella liked it a lot and didn’t even realize it was meatless until I told him so as I was clearing away the plates.

Lentils make a wonderful substitute for ground beef in many recipes.  They’re much less costly than beef, and they have a satisfying, earthy flavour and pleasant texture. 

They bring a lot of nutrition to the plate too: 

A cup of lentils has 230 calories compared to 360 for the same amount of cooked, crumbled, lean ground beef.  That cup of lentils has a single gram of fat, 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of fibre, and 90% of the RDA of folate – a nutrient essential to the production of new cells and the body’s effective use of iron.  Lentils are also rich in magnesium and Vitamin B6, and it is believed that they may reduce the risk of high blood pressure.[1]

Because of their shape, lentils cook from their dried form quite quickly, requiring no presoaking.  They are a busy cook’s good friend.  I call upon them often, and always have at least one bag of lentils in my pantry.  

To make Slightly Disheveled Josephs, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup dried lentils (I used green because they’re what I have in the cupboard right now but, yellow, brown, or black will work too.  I don’t recommend red lentils because they’re too small and won’t provide the desired texture.)
  • 4 cups water (not pictured)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped, about 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery, including the leaves
  • 3/4 cup diced bell pepper (I used yellow and purple bell pepper strips from my freezer, and diced them frozen)
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bread and butter pickles (gherkins will work too)
  • 1 Tablespoon brine from the pickle jar (optional)

Put the lentils and water in a large pot, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium.  Cook them for about 20 minutes.

When the lentils have been cooking for about 10 minutes, heat the olive oil in a large pan and use it to sauté the onion, celery, and bell pepper until the vegetables are tender-crisp and the onion has just begun to take on some colour.

Add in the garlic and sauté for half a minute more.

Mix in the tomato paste and cook it for a couple of minutes.

Add in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, grainy mustard, and diced pickles, stirring until the mixture is heated through.  Reduce the heat to simmer.

When the lentils are done they should be tender but still have a little tooth to them.  They’ll have absorbed most of the water but there will be a little bit (maybe half a cup) remaining in the bottom of the pan.

Add the cooked lentils and whatever water remains in the pot to the tomato sauce mixture.  If it’s too loose a mixture, turn up the heat and stir the pot until it reaches the consistency you prefer.

Taste the finished dish and adjust the seasoning.  (I found that I wanted a little more acid in mine, so I stirred in a Tablespoon of brine from the pickle jar.)

Spoon your Slightly Disheveled Joseph mixture over bread, buns, or biscuits (I use my sweet potato biscuits for this) and garnish the sandwich with some torn parsley leaves.  Serve it immediately, while it’s still piping hot.

This recipe freezes well.  You can make it ahead and freeze it in individual portions.  Reheat it from frozen in the microwave.

This post is linked to A Marvelous Mess, hosted by Marvelously Messy, to Craft-O-Maniac Monday hosted by Craft-O-Maniac, Busy Monday hosted by A Pinch of Joy, to Mix it up Monday hosted by Flour Me with Love, to On the Menu Monday hosted by Stone Gable Blog, to the Tuesday To Do Party hosted by The Blackberry Vine, to the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by Zesty South Indian Kitchen, Savoring Today, Premeditated Leftovers, and The 21st Century Housewife,

A Marvelous Mess

Tuesday To Do Party    Hearth and Soul blog hop at Zesty South Indian Kitchen