Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Meatless: Curried (not)Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup

Photo credit: JustinC of Wikimedia
I realize the irony of this post.  Here I've been waxing away about the glories of locally sourced meat and I'm going meatless on you.  Never fear, it's just for one day.  In the next 3 weeks, I will be the proud owner of 1/4 of a pig, 1/8 of a cow and 1/2 a goat.  If anyone is in the market for some grass-fed organic meat of any kind, please consider me your #1 supplier. It's been a very meat heavy last few weeks.  Christmas Eve I made New Basics 3 citrus, ginger and rosemary glazed pork loin and then noshed on pork topped fruit salads for days afterward.
There was bacon on Christmas Eve morn, New Years Eve morn and again at New Years lunch.  Speaking of New Years, I celebrated the holiday in New Orleans and there found a new butcher whose pancetta mac n cheese, pork belly sandwich and gambino sandwich are still making me drool at the thought.  Also I found andouille sausage alligator cheesecake and fried chicken at Jacques-Imos, steak at Commander's and lots and lots of fish, which I'm not adding to my meat tally.
Now I'm ushering in 2011 with a freezer is full of carnage and Monday night I just didn't have the heart to face it.  I've been yearning for my "before cooking school days."  Happy memories of those days include intentionally consuming just one serving of meat daily, under salting my food, and steering toward whole wheat products.  And yet cooking school has taught me that lots of good meat is good, flavor is more important than one's shape, salt is everyone's friend and sometimes you just need a old fashioned baguette.
For Christmas, I received Soup and Bread's Cookbook and after meeting Martha through a friend, and respecting her culinary prowess, I am determined to cook my way through it.  First pick went to a Curried Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup.  After skimming the recipe and checking out the author I realize, I know this woman?! Bettina had carpooled with Damon and I to crop mob in Michigan on a cold Saturday last March. What small world this is.  Bettina's recipe was one of those that you read through and can taste the flavors melding together word by word.  Fresh ginger and cayenne give the soup a refreshing bite at the end, while the lentils, curry and squash mellow together for a rich, meaty base. Therein fulfilling my meat needs, meatlessly.  Though I couldn't find red lentils at any of the three stores I tried, one bag of green lentils is right around 0.99.  Forget buying spices at a big box store; go to your local spice shop for bulk prices.  The soup is hearty enough to fill you up after these 18 degree days and cheap to boot.

Get inspired, sign yourself up for meatless Mondays and try out this soup.  Or if you just can't find the motivation to cook it yourself, head over to the Hideout on Wednesdays from now until late April for more Soup & Bread favorites.

Bettina's Curried (not)Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup
2 T butter
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 t salt
2 T fresh ginger, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3/4 t cayenne pepper
2 t curry
1 quart water
1 cup lentils, rinsed

In a large stock pot, melt butter and saute squash, onion, celery, carrot, ginger, garlic and salt for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened a bit but have not turned color.  Add in 1/4 t cayenne pepper and curry.  Stir well to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add in water, then lentils and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25-45 minutes, until the lentils have evenly softened.  Add remaining cayenne and salt to taste.

I served it with 101 Cookbooks' Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apples, which also was my very first foray into the world of cooking with tofu.  I used honey, rather than maple syrup, just because it is what I had on hand and the crunch of the nuts and sweetness of the apples worked perfectly with the soup.

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