Say hello to a super easy vegan meal that will have you feeling way more OK that fall came so fast.
Well, don’t stress about how fast time seems to be going.
Stuff happens. So let’s stuff some zukes and stuff our faces!
Is there any food that makes you think of fall more than squashes? I get so excited thinking about pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, kabocha squash (that’s actually pumpkin in Japanese)…and zucchinis! These savoury fruits are packed with nutrition and flavour and are the perfect vessels to soak up other deliciousness.
Zukes are a convenient squash because they don’t have that thick skin or large seeds to remove so you can simply cook it up and eat it all! I recently discovered those cute little yellow patty-pan squashes at my local farmers market this year. Have you tried them? So yummy! Like zucchini, you can grill ’em or fry ’em and eat the whole thing!
This easy plant-based recipe is a fantastic dish to come together over. It’s filling, satisfying and packed with plant-based protein and fibre. Using zucchinis instead of pasta helps make this recipe low-carb. You can celebrate the reduced carbohydrate intake, if that’s your thing right now, or you could use it as an excuse to also enjoy some delicious sourdough garlic toast. The choice is yours! (I always go for the toast.)
Instead of ground meat, this plant-based recipe focuses on plant-powered protein from seeds! (Did you know that lentils and quinoa are both seeds?)
Lentils are pulses, the edible seeds of legumes (like dried beans and peas). Pulses are excellent sources of plant-based nutrition. Pulses are superfoods loaded with plant-based protein, fibre and essential minerals like potassium. Beans, peas and lentils are some of the best vegan proteins to keep in your pantry because you can easily store them for a long time at room temperature either dried or canned.
Like many plant-based protein sources, pulses are not considered a ‘complete protein’ as they do not contain sufficient amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. Pairing pulses with grains is an age-old way of completing the protein to ensure you get all of your aminos! Humans have been pairing pulses and grains since before we even knew what protein was (hummus and pita anyone?).
Lentils are one of my favourite vegan proteins to keep on hand because they cook in about the same time as rice so they are easy to incorporate into meals. Many beans contain a tough outer skin that extends cooking time and the overnight soaking step impedes the spontaneity that often fuels my kitchen adventures, so you’ll find me most often cooking up lentils at home.
The grain we are pairing with lentils in this dish is quinoa! Quinoa (keen-wah) is weird one. It’s technically a seed, but we classify it as a grain, and it’s one of the rare plants that is complete protein all on its own!
Both lentils and quinoa can cook in about 20 minutes so they work very well together. In this recipe we saute the lentils and quinoa in the oil to bring out more of the nutty flavour and decrease the cooking time.
This recipe utilizes my go-to unprocessed ground beef substitute: a mixture of green lentils, red split lentils and quinoa. The red lentils disintegrate making a nice thick sauce while the green lentils and quinoa add a chewy texture.
What you’ll need (4 servings):
- 1 giant zucchini or 2 medium
- 3 Tbsp grape seed oil (or other heat-friendly oil like avocado or canola)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 Cup dried green lentils
- 1/2 Cup dried red split lentils
- 1/4 Cup dried quinoa
- 1 800 mL can diced tomatoes
- 1 150 mL can tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 Cup hot water (boil in a kettle first to save time)
- salt and pepper to taste
What to do (45 minutes):
- Preheat oven to 400ºF
- In a large pan, preheat the oil on medium heat for about a minute and then add the diced onions
- Sprinkle the onions with a pinch of salt to help pull out some of the water and speed up the caramelization process
- Saute the onions until tender and starting to brown, then add the minced garlic, lentils and quinoa
- Stir frequently for about 2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant
- Mix in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and dried herbs
- Turn the heat to high and add 1 cup of hot water and bring to a boil
- Stir once more and then turn the heat down to low and let simmer, covered with a lid, for 15 minutes
- In the meantime, prepare the zucchini boats by cutting the zucchini in half lengthwise and scooping out the insides with a spoon, leaving a ~1/2 cm boarder to the peel (I used a knife to carve it out a bit more, so be careful if you choose this route!)
- Place the zucchini halves bowl-side-up in a baking dish
- Fill each boat with a heaping mound of lentil bolognese sauce
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper to serve
I sprinkled with a little fleur de sel for looks and because I love little pops of saltiness and feeling fancy by saying things like “fleur de sel”. You can get a similar effect with course sea salt as well (fleur de sel is flakier with a less intense salt flavour).