Curried Lentil Stew

We’ve had a return of chilly weather, which means I can make soup for dinner a few more times before this year’s heat sets in and we only want to eat cold, green things for the next seven months.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the heat!  Soup is just so easy and satisfying, that it’s a shame to waste the last cool nights eating salad already.

I happened upon this recipe online and, after making a few adjustments, whipped it up for dinner in 30 minutes.  It’s delightfully flavorful, unapologetically nutritious, exceptionally filling and just ethnic enough to feel like a refreshing change from the norm.

We paired ours with some queso garlic toast made from sourdough bread brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with granular garlic, chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco. Toast it under a hot broiler for a couple of minutes. Yum!

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Curried Lentil Stew

Adapted from: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/why-i-dont-like-instant-pot-curried-lentil-sweet-potato-stew/

Serves: 5-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ – 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 pound yams or sweet potatoes, finely diced

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup plain yogurt or queso fresco

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until golden.

Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

Add curry powder, salt and pepper and stir constantly for about 30 seconds to allow spices to toast.

Add tomatoes, stock and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add cubed yams and simmer another 10-15 minutes, just until lentils and yams are soft.

Stir in chopped cilantro just before serving and garnish with either yogurt or queso fresco.

Another Soup – Tomato Bisque

IMG_1860.JPGWhat I secretly love most about soup for dinner is that it’s almost a full meal in one pot. Add some bread and/or a salad on the side and you’ve got dinner in 30 minutes. The cleanup is a snap and the leftovers are always in demand, unlike other meals that end up taking up valuable fridge and Tupperware real estate until you guiltily toss them a week later.

Tomatoes are the number one reason I grow a garden. I eat them daily during the summer months, which makes it all the more inexplicable that until this year I could not make a homemade tomato soup that I actually liked.

Enter: bacon. It really is the key to deep flavor here. While you could leave it out and add a dash of smoked paprika to appease any vegetarians in the crowd, it wouldn’t be quite so delicious.
Tomato Bisque

Adapted from: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/11/12/recipe-tomato-bisque/

4 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

2 slices bacon

4 cloves garlic

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups chicken broth/stock

1 28-ounce canned diced tomatoes

3 parsley sprigs or 2 tsp dried

3 fresh thyme sprigs (remove leaves from stem) or 1 tsp dried

1 bay leaf

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste based on your broth’s saltiness

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Cook diced onion in butter for about 5 – 6 minutes or until it softens and begins to brown.

Add bacon and garlic and stir for another minute or two or until the bacon gets crisp.

Sprinkle flour over all and stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching.

Add tomatoes and broth, whisking constantly.

Add herbs and simmer about 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.

Puree the soup either in a blender (in batches) or with a handheld immersion blender

Stir in the heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Bisque

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It almost never snows where I live, so when it does, making soup is a requirement.  Today we saw the first, and possibly last, white flurries of the season and while the kids were wildly planning to build a gigantic snowman with the 0.047 inches of snow, I was dreaming of a rich, luscious bowl of soup.

I still have a few butternut squash from our garden in storage and I have been brainstorming the perfect recipe for weeks now.  I wanted it to have layers of flavor, like my favorite tomato bisque (I PROMISE to post that recipe this week as well) and be creamy without masking the flavor of the squash.

I used several recipes as a baseline for this one, and I think it turned out to be the perfect combo of easy prep and gourmet taste.  You’ll want to pull out your blender, one of these amazing jelly roll pans and a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.   I love this one and may in fact consider saving it during a house fire if all my people were safely accounted for. Other than that, you’ll be sitting down to a steaming bowl within 45 minutes.  If you served it with a side of sourdough bread and butter, I’m certain no one would mind.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

1 large or 2 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced (or use a combo of butternut and white acorn, which you won’t need to peel)
4 medium carrots, cut lengthwise
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
½ a large onion, cut into large chunks
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
salt
pepper
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves or a pinch of dried
salt and pepper to taste
¾-1 cup heavy cream

2 -3 cups mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Prepare squash, carrots, garlic and onion and arrange on a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice 2 Tbsp of butter and place on top of veggies.

Roast for about 20-35 minutes, or until everything is beginning to char, but before it really burns.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to blender with about 3 cups of the stock.  Puree until smooth.

Combine puree with as much remaining stock as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Add sage leaves and simmer gently for 10 minutes or so to combine flavors, stirring often.

Meanwhile, clean and slice mushrooms and saute in a little butter.  They will sweat out a lot of liquid.  Keep sauteing until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are coated in a golden glaze.  

Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the heavy cream and heat through, but DO NOT ALLOW to boil.  Remove sage leaves or inform your guests that they may find a “lucky leaf” in their bowl.

Serve drizzled with plain or flavored olive oil and with a spoonful of mushrooms for garnish.  Sourdough bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

IMG_1787.JPGThere’s definitely a chill in the air and everyone seems to be passing the sniffles back and forth, which means it’s time for some chicken soup. While I do love a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, I admit that sometimes I like my soup sans noodles. This version is gluten free, but hearty and delicious. The batch here serves a crowd of 8-10, so cut it in half if you have fewer people, or, better yet, invite some family or friends to share it with you, unless you are sick, in which case enjoy a bowl a day for a week as you recuperate.

The amounts and types of vegetables aren’t set in stone here.  Feel free to experiment with other types or use what you have on hand.  Regular peas would be fine in place of sugar snap.  Green beans, broccoli and corn would also work well.  If you don’t have wild rice, you may substitute plain brown rice in its place.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups wild rice blend
2 tsp salt (or more depending on the saltiness of your stock)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/2 cup diced sugar snap peas
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (may use canned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Cook onion in butter until soft and beginning to brown.  Add rice, salt and pepper and stir for a minute.  Add chicken stock and simmer for 45 min – 1 hour or until the rice is cooked through and the darker grains split open and begin to curl.

Add carrots and celery and simmer 10 minutes.  Add peppers, peas and chicken and return to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley and enjoy.

This soup is great alone or topped with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of pesto.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

This is our “Halloween Soup.”  We make it every year on October 31st before our ghouls head out for the night. It’s a delicious combination of fall flavors, and there’s no reason to sequester it to just one night of the year. If you have a food processor, this soup whips up in a flash. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender, or transfer the soup, once cooked, to a blender and puree in batches (if you’re using a traditional blender, just add the beans and tomatoes whole at the instructed time). I like to leave some texture to it, rather than having it come out completely smooth.

It’s a great crock pot recipe as well, and I’ve included some tips at the conclusion of the directions for those of you who will be utilizing your slow cookers.  Toast some pepitas with salt and a little olive oil before serving and pass the cheese and sour cream at the table.

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Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

3 Tbsp butter
1 ¼ cups onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/s tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (one 16 oz can)
3 to 4 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 cup chopped ham, optional (I almost always leave this out)

In food processor, finely chop onion and garlic.

Cook onion and garlic, in butter in a 6 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat till softened and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, puree beans and tomatoes in food processor.  Leave a little texture to the beans, rather then letting them become totally creamy.

When onion mixture is ready, add cumin, salt, pepper and smoked paprika ad stir for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add bean puree, broth and pumpkin.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally about 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat back of spoon. Just before serving, add ham, if desired (I never do).

Serve with salt, pepper, grated cheese, sour cream and toasted pepitas.

Changes For Slow-Cooker:
Brown onions and garlic, toast spices as instructed and add to slow-cooker. Decrease broth to 3 cups and cook on low 4 hours.