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Latin American / Caribbean Vegan Recipes
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Ají de Lentejas (Bolivian spicy lentil stew)
from Vargas, La Paz, Bolivia

Serves 4. Cooking time: 35 minutes. While this recipe is Bolivian, ají is also typical of Peru/Bolivia/Ecuador and northern Chile, as is the salad that accompanies it, the Sarsa.

For the stew:

  • 1 teaspoon of dried smoked hot peppers, ground (you may use chipotles for a very spicy meal, or Chile Ancho for a milder ají. If you have access to Andean Chilis, choose the yellow variety for spicy and the red variety for mild)
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of flat (italian) parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of dried lentils
  • olive oil,
  • salt, pepper
  • water

For Sarsa:

  • One medium tomato, julienned
  • 1/2 onion cut in fine, long pieces
  • a handful of flat parsley, finely chopped
  • The juice of 1 lime and salt to taste

Sarsa: Mix ingredients, and set aside--the longer this sits, the more the lime juice infuses everything with its flavor.

To cook the lentils: place in saucepan, cover with water, add salt, 1/2 garlic clove and oil. Bring to a boil and then bring the heat down to medium and cook for 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain and remove the garlic. Set aside

While the lentils are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Fry the garlic and the parsley at medium heat until the garlic is golden. Add the chopped onion until the onions become shiny (this means they're cooked but not yet golden). Add the ground hot pepper and a splash of water. Let the Aji cook for 1 minute. Keep stirring. Add the chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup of water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 25 mintues at low-medium heat. Add lentils and mix with sauce. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Serve with white rice and top with 1-2 spoons of sarsa

There are many many variations you can do with this basic stew-replace the lentils with garbanzo beans, seitan, fava beans. You may also make the stew spicier and counter that with the sweetness of cooked ripe plantains instead of beans. This is called "Ají de plátano". Be creative. Any legume that absorbs flavor well and is not overwhelming with its own flavor would work (black beans, because they are so flavorful, don't work very well).