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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

spicy lentils with roasted squash and greens


If I post a healthy and delicious recipe that I did, in fact eat this week (several times, actually—it was a big batch), will that earn a few credits to counter the demerits I’ve collected eating all manner of holiday-themed treats (read: chocolate) and incredibly rich food (dang, I just can NOT resist that egg nog) these last few weeks? As my friend Meggan mused in her blog about a package of bacon, sometimes you just need to finish off those pesky ingredients. Then they won’t tempt you further.

Which maybe works in a normal month? I mean, depending on how many cartons of ice cream or tins of home-made cookies or half-eaten boxes of chocolate truffles you usually have hanging around the house. I know myself better than to stock my cabinets with those items on a regular basis. Anyway. Does the following summary look familiar to anyone?

Dec 20:  I love egg nog. Especially with fresh-ground nutmeg sprinkled on. Especially after already eating tea and gingerbread men for dessert. Because, you know, it’s just a beverage. And anyway, no point in leaving just this little bit of egg nog in the carton. Might as well just finish it off. Whoops! Sorry, Dan…  did you want some of that?

Dec 21: [To self with best of intentions.] “Oh good, eating this second bowl of vanilla ice cream will finish off that pesky carton and then it won’t be tempting me any more!” [Sprinkles ice cream with fresh-ground nutmeg to see if it will therefore taste more like egg nog. It does, kind of. Because what is egg nog other than not-yet-frozen ice cream, anyway? Helpful tip: one time we put a half-gallon of egg nog in an ice cream maker and guess what? It turned into ice cream!]

Dec 22: [Receives a package of delicious homemade nut candy from Margo, a beautiful Harry & David basket-o-goodies from Uncle Al, and there is still part of a loaf of cranberry bread in the drawer from Alice yesterday. Not to mention the box of Frangos from Rosemary and Allan, yum, mint chocolately chocolate.] “What to finish off NEXT?”

Dec 23: Just baked how many hundreds of dark chocolate and cherry bread for bakery customers? And the fruited almond, too…  [must… not… eat… entire… loaf…]

Looking ahead:
Dec 24…  This is NOT the day to adopt a new slimming regimen. I’ll try not to make myself sick eating too many helpings of Martha’s fantastic desserts. That’s about the best I can hope for.

Dec 25…  This day is especially wonderful…  I’m likely to get some of Claire’s spectacular homemade egg nog!

Dec 26: Time enough to turn over a new leaf. Or, just get back to the old, non-holiday leaf. Just as soon as I finish off all these leftover goodies!! 

So anyway, back to the lentil recipe. You’re going to love it. Eat it, love the flavor, and feel extra-virtuous for being so healthy. Then you can eat a big ol’ dessert of holiday treats afterwards. 

spicy lentils with roasted squash and greens

This recipe is based on one in Peter Berley’s book, The Flexitarian Table. But instead of cooking the squash or pumpkin in the lentils for the last 20 minutes, as he does, I like to use leftover roasted winter squash cubes. You can do it either way, but the roasted squash is yummier—and it looks pretty as a garnish, instead of being cooked in the soup. (Not that I’m all about pretty food, but I’m trying to convince you to do the roasted squash cubes recipe. You’ll never go back.) You can get the smoked paprika (and other spices) from Summit Spice & Tea Co., at 1120 E. Huffman Road. Of course I like to make a double batch, and then I freeze half before adding the kale and squash. This is a complete meal on its own.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 tablespoons hot or sweet Spanish smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup French green lentils, soaked for 2 to 24 hours
28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
1-2 pounds of leftover roasted winter squash cubes, or raw squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound lacinato or regular curly green kale, tough stems discarded

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Drain the lentils and add them to the onions, along with the tomatoes and their juice. Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If you’re starting with raw squash, add the squash cubes after the lentils have cooked for 25 minutes, and cook them with the lentils for the last 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the kale and boil for 3-6 minutes, until tender (keep testing!). Drain and chop coarsely.
3. When the lentils are quite tender, add the kale to the lentils and season with salt and pepper. If the soup seems a little bitter, add a drizzle of honey to take the edge off. Just add a little at a time, though! Sometimes the collards and the smoky paprika can be a bit much, and the honey really mellows things nicely. Also, don’t be afraid to season nicely with salt.Simmer for another 3 minutes while you heat the leftover roasted squash (I use the microwave). If you’re using the leftover roasted squash, serve the lentils with a dollop of roasted squash in the center of each bowl.

roasted winter squash cubes

Smooth-skinned squashes (like butternut and banana squash) are easiest for this recipe, because it’s very easy to peel them before they are cooked. When I make this recipe, I usually roast two pounds of squash because the cubes make such great leftovers.

1 pound piece of banana squash, or 1 large butternut squash (at least a pound)
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and seed your squash and dice it into ½” pieces (the pieces don’t have to be square).
3. Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick spray or oil. (This makes clean-up a lot easier.)
4. Toss the squash cubes with the olive oil and salt. Spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
5. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until starting to get brown and slightly shriveled. Remove the squash from the oven, keeping the oven on, and drizzle a little honey over the squash. Toss the cubes with the honey and return to the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the squash is browned.

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