Although I tend to avoid prepackaged meals, I must admit that Trader Joe's Spicy Lentil Wrap has become a mainstay of my weekend hiking trip lunches. I feel guilty about buying a premade sandwich housed in plastic ... and then I throw all qualms aside as I polish off the vegan lentil and bulgur-filled wrap with tahini sauce. It's pleasantly spicy and zingy, and pretty nutritious as far as packaged foods go. Could I make a homemade version that was just as tasty?
Again, I consulted some Armenian recipes to make the paste. Traditionally, making red pepper paste requires days of sun drying, but this simplified version just involves simmering red bell peppers and cayenne on the stovetop. (You might want to make more of this; the sweet, lightly spicy condiment is amazing with eggs, soup, and other sandwiches.) Alternatively, you can use store-bought pepper paste, which is often sold in Middle Eastern markets.
My partner, who instigated the creation of this recipe, confirmed in a taste test that my version beat the store-bought one in a landslide. I expected the two to be fairly similar, but when tasted side-by-side, the flavors and textures of the homemade wrap were so much more lively. It's truly worth the extra time and effort!
Spicy Lentil Wraps with Tahini Sauce
Makes 6 wraps
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
3/4 cups fine grain (#1) bulgur
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 (approximately 9x12-inch) sheets lavash, white or whole wheat
3/4 cup red pepper paste (recipe below, or use store-bought)
2 cups shredded cabbage
Tahini sauce to serve (recipe below)
Combine lentils and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.
Turn off heat and stir in bulgur. Let stand until water is absorbed and bulgur is soft, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Stir in cumin and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.
Add onions, scallions, parsley, and salt to lentil-bulgur mixture and stir until well combined. Let cool before using to make wraps. (If you want a smoother texture closer to the Trader Joe's version, you can run the filling through a food processor, but I like it just as it is.) You can freeze the filling in an airtight container if not using all at once.
To assemble, lay out a lavash sheet with the shorter end closest to you. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of red pepper paste across the lower 1/3 of the sheet. Top with the lentil-bulgur mixture, and then the cabbage. Roll from the bottom up, and spread an additional 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper paste across the top end to help seal the wrap. Repeat for remaining wraps.
To serve, cut each wrap in half and serve with tahini sauce on the side.
Red Pepper Paste
Makes about 3/4 cup
6 red bell peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil to cover (if refrigerating)
Combine bell peppers, cayenne pepper, and salt in a food processor and puree.
Pour the puree into a skillet over low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a paste. This can take up to 2 hours.
Let cool before using. To store, pack the paste into a jar, pour enough olive oil on top to cover, and refrigerate.
Makes about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup tahini
2/3 cup or more warm water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork until well combined.
Gradually stir in small amounts of additional warm water until the desired consistency is achieved.