Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spicy Lentil Wraps with Tahini Sauce

No matter how hard I try, I will always have far more bookmarked recipes than I have time to try, much less perfect. In order to keep my culinary to-do list manageable, I have a couple of methods for whether a recipe is really worth a shot - either I'm so excited to try I make it immediately, or it keeps popping back into my head. This recipe is more of the latter variety. The first time I saw it mentioned on The Kitchn, I immediately saved it, but with a few weeks of work lunches in the freezer already, there wasn't room for this one too. But every time I popped over to The Kitchn, I couldn't help thinking about this recipe, so it went right to the top of the queue as soon as my freezer cleaning was complete.

I can't say I've been disappointed with anything I've bought at Trader Joe's, so the fact that this wrap was modeled on a Trader Joe's offering definitely intrigued me. Dried lentils are something I always have around, their quick preparation and affordability making them an absolute pantry staple. Bulgur gets a spot for the same reason, so this meal was practically destined to be in my life. It may not be as quick and easy and picking up a sandwich at the store, but portioning and freezing the leftover lentil mixture makes the extra effort well worth it.

Quick cooking, affordable ingredients aside, this wrap is all about sauces. The homemade versions described below are worth it if you have the time, but even store-bought red pepper paste and tahini will leave your taste buds happy. The lentils and bulgur are the spicy, smoky soul of this wrap, but it's the spicy, savory red pepper paste and creamy tahini that really makes it delicious. Crunchy greens are a nice contrast from the tender filling, my only complaint with this wrap being the somewhat brittle tortilla I used to wrap it all up since I didn't have any whole grain lavash on hand. But you know what? I can't say I really minded scooping up the lingering bits that fell to my plate, those remnants extending my meal a few more delicious bites.

Spicy Lentil Wraps with Tahini Sauce
adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 6 wraps

1/2 cup lentils, preferably red, rinsed
2 cups water
3/4 cups fine grain bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 (approximately 9x12-inch) sheets whole grain lavash or whole grain tortillas
3/4 cup red pepper paste (recipe below, or use store-bought)
2 cups shredded cabbage, spinach, or other greens
Tahini sauce to serve (recipe below)

1. Combine lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.

2. Turn off heat and stir in bulgur. Let stand until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.

4. Add onions, scallions, parsley, and salt to lentil-bulgur mixture and stir until well combined. Let cool before using to make wraps. (If you want a smoother texture closer to the Trader Joe's version, you can run the filling through a food processor, but I like it just as it is.) You can freeze the filling in an airtight container if not using all at once.

5. To assemble, lay out a lavash sheet with the shorter end closest to you. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of red pepper paste across the lower 1/3 of the sheet. Top with the lentil-bulgur mixture, and then the cabbage. Roll from the bottom up, and spread an additional 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper paste across the top end to help seal the wrap. Repeat for remaining wraps.

6. To serve, cut each wrap in half and serve with tahini sauce on the side.

Red Pepper Paste
makes about 3/4 cup

6 red bell peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil to cover (if refrigerating)

1. Combine bell peppers, cayenne pepper, and salt in a food processor and puree.

2. Pour the puree into a skillet over low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a paste. This can take up to 2 hours.

3. Let cool before using. To store, pack the paste into a jar, pour enough olive oil on top to cover, and refrigerate.

Tahini Sauce
makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup tahini
2/3 cup or more warm water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork until well combined.

2. Gradually stir in small amounts of additional warm water until the desired consistency is achieved.

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