A vegetarian friend asked me for the lentil chili recipe I developed when I was working as a caterer in Los Angeles. I am excited to share this recipe because it is even better with lentils grown right here in Montana, ranked number one in the nation for production of field peas and lentils. The flavor profile is the classic Mexican herb and spice combination of garlic, oregano, cumin and chilis. Lentils, seared mushrooms and eggplant are a fantastic alternative to meat, providing a meaty texture and savory flavor with the addition of Worcestershire sauce. You can use all brown lentils or include some green lentils for additional texture as well, although they should be cooked separately as they take up to 15 to 20 minutes longer to cook than the brown variety. Another option is to include black beans, kidney beans or black-eyed peas.
Cook lentils in two times their volume of water. Cover and bring to a boil then lower to simmer until soft (20-30 minutes for brown and 40-45 minutes for green).
• 4 oz. lentils, dried brown, rinsed
• 4 oz. lentils, dried green, rinsed
While lentils are cooking, place the following spices in sauté pan and warm over medium heat to bring up flavors.
• 1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
• 1/2 tsp. oregano, dried leaves
• 1/2 tsp. chili, dried ground chipotle
• 1/2 tsp. chili, ground
• Pinch of cinnamon
Sauté onion and pepper until soft. Add garlic to soften and then spices, being careful not to burn. Remove from pan and set aside.
• 2 oz. oil, vegetable or olive
• 1 small onion, yellow, small diced
• 1 pepper, green bell, small diced
• 1 pepper, jalapeno, minced
Sear mushrooms in hot pan for color. Once nicely brown, add Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Repeat the same procedure with eggplant and garlic.
• 8 oz. mushrooms, cremini, small diced
•3.5 oz. mushrooms, shitake, small diced
• 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 4 oz. eggplant, small diced
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
Add pepper/onion mixture back to eggplant. Add the following ingredients and simmer for 30-45 minutes to blend flavors. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
• 6 oz. beer, amber ale
• 28.5 oz. tomatoes, fire roasted, petite diced
• 2 Tbsp. hot sauce, Cholula brand
• 1 cup stock, vegetable or tomato juice
Serve with dollop of sour cream, some cilantro and a wedge of lime or a splash of red wine vinegar.
• Sour cream
• Cilantro leaves
• Lime wedges
Manda Hudak is the savory chef instructor at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.