This year my husband and I are spending time with both our families over the next few weeks, which means traveling from Los Angeles to Seattle to Boston and back again. Needless to say, we'll be spending a lot of time on airplanes, and not one of the flights includes a meal.
Instead of relying on sad bags of mini pretzels or soggy airport sandwiches, I'll be packing a few of these whole wheat pockets. Stuffed with spiced lentils, kale, and mashed roasted sweet potato, these sturdy vegan pastries freeze well and taste great hot or at room temperature. So whether you're sitting in your cubicle or cruising at 30,000 feet, you can have a wholesome meal ready whenever you are.
Since starting grad school this fall, I've been on the hunt for healthy, filling lunch recipes that freeze well and can be eaten at room temperature. (My school has just two publicly accessible microwaves on the entire campus.) Whole wheat vegetarian calzones have become a favorite. Baked, wrapped, and frozen, they are easy to grab from the freezer on a busy morning, thaw gradually in my bag until lunchtime, and fuel me through the afternoon.
The spiced lentil and kale mixture is my version of the Middle Eastern dish mujadarah, a fragrant combination of warm spices, French green lentils, and caramelized onions. Because I'm always itching for more vegetables when I travel, I added mashed roasted sweet potatoes to the filling for a one-handed, portable meal that packs protein, fiber, and a ton of flavor.
Making these pockets is a little involved, but you can take some shortcuts by starting with store-bought whole wheat pizza dough, or by roasting and refrigerating the sweet potatoes several days before assembling. I usually set aside a Saturday afternoon to make a batch, then freeze and eat them over the next week or two. You can even double the lentil and kale mixture and eat it for dinner over rice or an extra roasted sweet potato.
Either way, you'll be happy to have a couple of these pockets packed in your carry-on, especially when the news comes in over the loudspeaker that your flight has been delayed again. Happy travels!
Spiced Lentil, Sweet Potato & Kale Whole Wheat Pockets
Makes 6 pockets
For the dough:
1 cup warm water (not hot or boiling)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
For the filling:
3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
1 medium yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup French green (Puy) lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 bunch kale, tough ribs and stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit until the yeast dissolves. Meanwhile, combine the two flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, followed by the dissolved yeast mixture, and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Knead for 7 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth. Lightly grease a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until very soft to the touch. Set aside to cool.
Cut the onion in half. Thinly slice one half and set aside. Dice the other half. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the diced onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and allspice and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Cut the kale into bite-size pieces. Add kale and salt to the lentils. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more, until lentils are soft but not mushy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lentil and kale mixture to a bowl, leaving most of the cooking liquid in the pot.
Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Increase the oven heat to 450°F. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Mash with a fork until smooth and add a sprinkle of salt, if needed.
On a well-floured cutting board, roll a piece of the dough into an 8- or 9-inch oval. (If it starts to shrink back, set it aside to rest for 5 minutes and try again.) Spread about 1/4 cup mashed sweet potato over bottom half the dough, leaving room at the edges to seal the pocket closed. Cover with about 1/3 cup of the lentils and kale. Top with a small amount of caramelized onions. Fold top half of the dough over, and pinch and fold edges to seal securely.
Use a spatula to transfer pocket to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with olive oil and cut 2 or 3 small slits to let steam escape as it bakes. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned. Let cool for at least 5 minutes if serving immediately.
To freeze, let the pockets cool completely on the baking sheet and then place the entire baking sheet in the freezer. Once pockets are completely frozen, wrap each one individually in foil or plastic wrap, and store in a freezer-safe container. Thaw and reheat in the microwave or oven, or eat at room temperature.
- Brown lentils can be substituted for the French green lentils, but begin checking for doneness a little earlier.
This recipe was originally published December 2012.
(Image credits: Anjali Prasertong)