Originally published in November 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. To me, lentils plus brown rice equals comfort food. Use your favorite store-bought or homemade smoky barbecue sauce; I love Rhode Island's own Cowboy Ketchup, gluten-free and not too spicy. Serve this vegan combination as a side dish, or a Meatless Monday main dish with a side salad.
For as long as I can remember, I've had a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce in my pantry.
For many years, it was the same bottle. I used to buy the little two-ounce supermarket standard, and those two ounces would sit on the shelf for a few years, until the sauce turned brown and gunky. I'd throw it out, and buy another little bottle, and start the cycle all over again. No matter what a recipe called for, I never used more than a drop at a time. Sometimes I just left out the hot sauce altogether. I was afraid of the heat.
Then my husband Ted, Cousin Martin and I visited New Orleans, and followed our noses to the McIlhenny headquarters on Avery Island, where the unmistakeable aroma of peppers and vinegar seeped in through the car's vents long before we actually arrived at the Tabasco factory building.
I got hooked.
Yes, friends, today I am a hot sauce junkie. I'm convinced everything tastes better with a little bit of heat — sometimes with a lot of heat. My hot sauce of choice is still Tabasco (I go through a twelve-ouncer every month), though each of the sauces in my pantry adds a slightly different flavor and heat intensity to my cooking.
The process of making hot sauce from peppers, vinegar and salt is simple. Hot peppers are picked as soon as they ripen to the perfect shade of bright red. The same day the peppers are picked, they're mashed, mixed with a small amount of salt, placed in wooden barrels, and allowed to ferment and age. When that process is completed, the mash is strained and diluted with vinegar.
Tabasco (a trademarked name referring not to the type of sauce, but to the region in Mexico where the peppers originate) is the easiest to find and the standard against which all other hot sauces are measured. I'm a purist, but if you prefer chipotle, sweet-hot, or jalapeño flavored hot sauce, go for it. You can never have too many hot sauces in your pantry.
Smoky brown rice and lentils
The basic recipe as I've made it is vegan, but you can add leftover cooked chicken, sausage, shrimp or roasted vegetables to this dish. Serves 6, can be doubled.
1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
6 cups liquid (water, or a mix of chicken stock and water)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried oregano
8 oz tomato sauce
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1/3 cup smoky barbeque sauce, or more to taste (I use gluten-free Cowboy Ketchup)
1 Tbsp hot sauce, or more to taste
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, any kind
Optional: 1 cup chopped chicken breast, or 3/4 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, or 1 cup leftover shredded chicken breast, or 1 cup roasted vegetables, or 1/2 cup sliced cooked sausage
In a stockpot, bring lentils, rice and liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, bay leaf, oregano, onions, carrots, barbecue sauce and hot sauce, and cook, covered for 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, and optional chicken, shrimp or sausage. Continue cooking 20 minutes or until everything is tender, and the finished dish is quite thick. If you need more liquid to keep it from sticking to the pot, add water a tablespoon at a time.
More comfort foods made with brown rice or lentils:
Vegetable fried rice
Slow cooker lentils with chicken sausage, spinach and feta cheese
Vegan barley and lentil pilaf with mushrooms and spinach
Spiced lentils with squash and raisins
Smoky pumpkin and brown rice enchiladas
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Lentil and quinoa chili, from Ambitious Kitchen
Spicy sausage, lentil and tomato soup, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Sesame almond brown rice balls, from 101 Cookbooks
Baked Greek brown rice, from Food Doodles
Mushroom and brown rice casserole, from Annie's Eats
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