This is a vegetarian adaptation of Rachael Ray’s recipe. An Italian spin on the American classic Sloppy Joes. My version features lentils instead of ground beef. You may be surprised to know that lentils are in fact an excellent source of iron, making them a fantastic substitution for meat. Enjoy this delicious (and messy!) sandwich with a simple mixed greens salad on a “Meatless Monday” or any day of the week.
SERVES 4 - TOTAL TIME APPROX. 45 MINUTES
Use organic ingredients when possible
1 cup brown lentils
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp avocado oil
2 small red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium portobello mushroom cap, finely chopped
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (156mL) tomato paste
½ cup (a couple of glugs) red wine
¾ cup vegetable stock or water
1 tbsp coconut aminos (soy-free seasoning sauce) or tamari
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ cup (a generous handful) flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted organic butter, softened
5-8 fresh basil leaves, about ¼ cup, chopped
¼ cup (a small handful) grated good-quality Parmigiano Reggiano or Romano cheese
4 individual ciabatta rolls or any kind of small crusty sub rolls
1 ball fresh good-quality mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
Rinse and pick over the lentils, then place them in a pot along with the bay leaf, and cover with the cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for between 20-30 minutes. Check periodically and top up with hot water if needed. The lentils are cooked when they are soft, but just about holding their shape. Drain, remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, food processor, or fork, partially purée the lentils so there are fewer whole pieces and it resembles ground meat. Set aside.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat a deep skillet or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat with avocado oil. Add the pepper, onion, 3/4 of the garlic, mushrooms, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5-8 minutes. Move the veggies to one side of the skillet and add the tomato paste to the empty section, stirring for a few seconds to release the flavours. Mix into the vegetables then pour in the wine and cook another minute for the alcohol to evaporate. Next, add the stock, coconut aminos, and lentil mash. Bring the mixture up to a bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper, if desired. Finish it by stirring in a handful of chopped parsley.
When the sauce is just about done, combine the remaining garlic with the soft butter, basil, and parmesan cheese in a small mixing bowl. Split the rolls in half lengthwise without cutting all the way through and separating the halves. Press open the rolls by flattening them out a little bit. Slather the insides with the butter and place 2 slices of the mozzarella on each roll. Toast until golden brown under the broiler, about 2-3 minutes.
Top one side of the toasted cheesy garlic rolls with a heap of the lentil sauce filling and serve along with a mixed greens salad dressed with aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Also, grab extra napkins and prepare to get messy!