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In my book Eat Your Vegetables, I wrote about how I don’t tend to use much mock meat, preferring to cook—and eat—vegetables. But I conceded that when it came to a Sloppy Joe, chorizo-spiced seitan was a pretty good fit. Well, now I say to my 2013 self: what were you thinking, when you’ve got lentils around, just waiting to enrich that sauce with protein and earthy goodness? Always changing, always growing. I also know what not to change, namely, the textural interest that zucchini and cherry tomatoes bring and the zing of sour pickles.
Servings 6


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 2 small zucchini cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 6 kaiser rolls or sturdy buns warmed but not toasted
  • 12 sour pickle slices


  • Pour the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, stir in the onion and garlic and sauté until they soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, ground chile, salt, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 
  • Stir in the cherry tomatoes and zucchini and cook until the tomatoes collapse, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the lentils and brown sugar, increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the squash is tender but not mushy and a thick sauce has formed. Taste and add more salt if needed. Let cool slightly. 
  • Divide the bottom buns among six plates. Spoon the warm filling onto the buns, top with the pickles and the top buns, and serve. 


“Reprinted with permission from Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes by Joe Yonan, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”
Photography credit: Aubrie Pick © 2020