Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lentil Tacos and a How-To Video for Taco Shells

Yes, it's a non-stick pan.  Switching to stainless steel or cast iron is a long way off, though it is on my health radar.
I'm loving lentil tacos as a staple meal.  They're tasty, I can prepare them almost entirely while wearing Squeak (the only time I can't wear him is when I'm frying up the shells, because of potential splatter), I can mostly stop and start as needed to parent the kids, and they're ready in about 30 minutes (unless there's a lot of away-from-pan parenting going on)!

The recipe I'm sharing is really inexact flexible.  I had read a bunch of recipes, and was intrigued, so I basically just prepared them the way I'd prepare any tacos!  So, if you usually add a packet of seasoning, cool. 

Here's what I did.

1 1/4 cups dry lentils
2 jalapeños
1/2 a medium white onion
1 sweet bell pepper (in the form of 1/2 orange and 1/2 yellow, just to be pretty)
4 cloves garlic, minced
safflower oil
lots of cumin and chili powder
a package of corn tortillas

1.  Prepare lentils like so.

2.  While they are simmering, dice up your 1/2 onion, the 2 jalapeños, and your sweet peppers.  Saute in safflower oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic just before you're going to add the lentils.  The longer you cook garlic, the more flavor it loses.

4.  When the lentils are done, drain any excess water and then add them to the pan of vegetables.  (At this point I reserve enough lentils for Bean and just add some seasoning, because he won't eat peppers or onions.)

5.  Add cumin and chili powder.

6.  Fill and fry corn tortillas as shown in the following video, in which I am very rushed because the oil was already hot and Bean was already eating (you can hear him proclaim some yum factor about a minute in) and could only be guaranteed to be occupied by his food for a short period of time.

I then garnish with cilantro, tomatoes, salsa, yogurt, cheese, and lettuce.

You might be wondering why in the world I don't just buy taco shells.  The main reason is that I really prefer these freshly-fried shells.  The store-bought ones always end up stabbing me in the mouth, breaking, etc  I don't like the texture, and I do like the taste and texture of the safflower oil.  I did just check the nutritional content, and apparently each prepared Old El Paso shell has 4.5 times the sodium as the corn tortillas we buy.  At 45mg/shell, it's not an item I would declare awful or must-change, but it does make a difference for me since my diet is quite low sodium.

Another little thing I like about frying up the pre-loaded shells is that it also reheats leftover filling - I don't have to heat up the filling separately.

A few tips for taco shells:

  • I should have been using a smaller pan, since I was only doing one shell at a time.  A smaller pan means needing less oil.
  • I should have had more oil in that pan, because you want the oil cooking the shells, rather than the heat from the bottom of the pan burning them.  They get crispier without burning if there is more oil.  My burner is also lopsided...which makes getting the oil un-pooled a trick...
  • Don't overfill.  You just end up with charred filling all over the pan.
  • The Beast makes rolled tacos and always eats them with a fork.  I prefer the traditional pouch shape and to eat them with my hands.

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