Kale & Black Lentil Arepas

This is the story of how a Kitchen Disaster turned into a Kitchen Miracle.

It started a few weeks ago, when I spotted a recipe for homemade corn tortillas on Happyolks. They made it look so easy, and without a tortilla press, even. But, what did I want to put in them? Weeks went by, and finally, inspiration hit. In the dorky form of purple kale. It was the last bunch at the market this past weekend, and it looked so great I had to snatch it up. I spent the entire walk home figuring out what to do with it, and at last it hit me – raw marinated kale! I knew the marinade had to be flavor forward, and contain plenty of acid to break down the walls of the kale so it wasn’t too tough to chew. The last time I tried raw kale was, well, less than grand. So this time I chopped it up good and small and massaged the heck out of it.

Anyways, back to the story. How about some Mexican-y spices in that marinade? And some black beans? Oh, but wait, beans take sooo long to cook, what about lentils instead? And on and on until I had a nice lentil salad put together in my head. The first incarnation I threw in some leftover quinoa in the fridge and took it to a picnic. And ya know what? It was so good I wanted to make it again. That same week! Now people, I rarely make the same dish twice, but twice in one week? Unheard of.

So the second time, instead of making it a salad, the brilliant me said “Remember that tortilla recipe? Let’s make tacos!” Yea…I didn’t get tacos. You are not getting tacos. The dough didn’t really get thin enough to be called a tortilla, so you’re getting arepas. They are still delicious. But to save yourself a little time, go ahead and buy tortillas and make tacos. Better yet, I have seen pouches of already cooked lentils at the grocery store – with these dinner would be ready in 20 minutes. Hooray!

Don’t be thrown off by the raw-ness of the kale. By the time you eat it, the leaves very tender. And the great thing about kale leaves is that they are hearty, so leaving them in the dressing all day (even overnight) makes it taste even better, and not get soggy like lettuce. Plus, eating it makes me feel like Superwoman. And makes my skin glow. Try it. What’ve you got to lose?

Kale & Black Lentil Arepas

2 c. masa harina flour
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
2/3 c. black lentils (or any color but red) rinsed and sorted
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 bunch kale (6-7 large leaves) chopped
3 tsp. pumpkin seeds, toasted
feta cheese, for garnish (or avocado, or sour cream)

If you’re using store bought tortillas, or making a salad, skip to the next paragraph. Mix the flour, 1  1/4 cups water, and 1/4 tsp. salt together until it forms a ball. If it doesn’t ball up, add a bit more water. Set aside.

Combine lentils and 1/2-2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil then turn to low. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and rinse.

Pour the lime juice into a bowl. In a mortar and pestle, combine garlic, cumin and salt and pound to a paste. Add this garlic mixture to the lime juice, then add the pepper. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the oil. Throw the kale in the bowl and using your hands, massage the dressing into the leaves for a minute or two. When the lentils are done, stir those in, too.

If you are making the arepas, heat the last tablespoon on oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and knead it between your hands a bit. Roll it into a ball, then flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place in the skillet and let cook, 3-4 minutes on one side, then flip and cook a few more minutes on the other side. You’ll know it’s done when both sides start turning brown. Repeat with the rest of the dough. The arepas don’t spread in the pan, so you can cook a few at a time, as many as will fit in your pan.

To serve, place 2 or 3 arepas on a plate, spoon on the kale mixture and top with seeds and cheese (or avocado).

serves 4.

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