curried squash and red lentil soup

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I told you you’d thank me for sharing a soup recipe?  Well if it wasn’t already, it definitely is soup weather now and I just can’t help myself– I haven’t wanted to make anything but soup lately!  This time it involves butternut squash, red lentils, ginger, and curry.

The ginger adds warmth to the soup and the lentils make it hardy so that it can be the main course and not just a starter.  Butternut squash is just starting to show up at farmer’s markets in these parts so when I saw it a few weeks back I had to pick some up and do something with it.  The soup is already vegetarian but could easily be made vegan with the omission of the butter.  I personally think that cooking the onions in olive oil and butter is luxurious but it would certainly still work without it.

Curried-Squash and Red-Lentil Soup (found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Heat oil with butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook squash, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.

Add lentils and water and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, 25 to 40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

in a few days you’ll thank me

Massive apologies for the large gap between posts.  I went on vacation and severely neglected my blog along with much else in life.  It was great, but now I’m back to tell you how much I love fall.  I love it, I do.  Favorite season of the whole darn year.  And even though it was a sticky 90 degrees today by the weekend it will be in the 50’s at night and you will want soup, mark my words.

It definitely felt like fall at the farmer’s market this past weekend.  I wore jeans for the first time in ages and it was kind of gray and windy and I got there early enough to avoid crowds and really take my time perusing the seasonal wares.  Since it was feeling so much like fall I decided to pick up some standard soup ingredients: potatoes, onions, garlic.  Done and done and done.

I made a beautiful soup by roasting the garlic and shallots and then sticking them in a pot with some potatoes, wine, broth, and a little fresh rosemary.  My apartment smelled amazing and the resulting soup was rich, creamy, and filling in a nice, not overly-stuffed way.  With a little fancy “ancient grain” bread I picked up at Whole Foods it fed me well all weekend.  And now hopefully it will feed you well some weekend this season!

Roasted Garlic and Shallot Potato Soup (adapted from recipe found at www.cookinglight.com)

  • 5 whole garlic heads, unpeeled
  • 3 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  •  1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 10 shallots, unpeeled (about ¾ pound)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cubed peeled baking potato (about ¾ pound); I used 2 cups unpeeled fingerling potatoes cubed and it worked just fine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (can substitute with thyme if you prefer)
  • 1 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove white papery skins from garlic heads (do not peel or separate cloves), cut off tops, leaving root ends intact.  Place garlic in a shallow roasting pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Add shallots to pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over shallots, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes or until tender and browned.  Cool.  Squeeze garlic to extract pulp; peel shallots.  Discard skins.  Set garlic pulp and shallots aside.

Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion.  Cover and cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic pulp, peeled shallots, and wine.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Stir in broth, potato, and rosemary (or thyme); bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender.  Cool slightly.  If you have an immersion blender use in Dutch oven until soup is smooth, if you do not own an immersion blender place half of potato mixture in a blender; process until smooth.  Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.  If you used a blender return pureed mixture to pan.

Stir in milk, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper into pureed mixture.  Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

o is for okra

Normally, I’m a list person.  I don’t go anywhere without a list, especially not to a place that almost requires a list like a grocery store.  That would be like leaving the house without my cellphone.  You know what I mean.  Leaving your house without your cellphone is the new leaving your house without clothes on.  You feel vulnerable and lost without it these days.

So Saturday morning I did something radical: I threw caution to the wind and decided to go to the farmer’s market sans list.  It was wild.  I wound up picking up a few predictable things: raspberries, green beans, kale, but also came home with a few surprises: namely, okra.  I have eaten it in restaurants before but if the farmer’s had not labeled the okra in their stands I would not have recognized it in its whole form.  But what the heck, I could find something great to do with it.

I did a little research on my iPhone and the first recipe I came across was the one I decided to go for: curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes.  This was perfect because a) I love curry, and b) I had both chickpeas and a can of tomatoes that needed to be used up in my pantry.  One thing that I wish I had known beforehand was that it is better to buy small okra.  My greedy eyes thought that bigger would be better so I bought okra that was 5 to 6 inches in length when apparently 2 to 3 inches is better.  I definitely could have fit more okra into my pot if they weren’t so big.  But nevermind, they still tasted great and I’m totally psyched about cooking with okra again in the future.  Sometimes it’s a very good thing to leave your lists at home!

Curried Okra with Chickpeas and Tomatoes (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  •   1 ¼ lb small fresh okra, left untrimmed, or 2 (10-oz) packages frozen whole okra (not thawed)
  •   1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  •   1 medium onion, chopped
  •   2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •   4 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  •   2 teaspoons curry powder
  •   1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, tomatoes chopped, reserving juice
  •   1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
  •   2/3 cup water
  •   ¾ teaspoon salt
  •   ¼ teaspoon black pepper

If using fresh okra, trim, leaving tops intact, being careful not to cut into pods.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic with ginger and curry powder, stirring, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, chickpeas, and water and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in okra, salt, and pepper and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, about 10 minutes.

Serve over rice or quinoa.

Baked Tilapia Fillets in Lemon-Soy Vinaigrette

When I used to live in Brooklyn there was a great farmer’s market in my neighborhood on Saturday mornings.  I would get up early, hit the gym, and on the walk home pop into the market and pick up fresh produce and flowers.  There was also a family stand there that sold fresh caught fish which used to intimidate the heck out of me until I realized that fish is the easiest thing on earth to cook.  I found one stellar flounder recipe that I would make frequently back then and had completely forgotten about it until I found myself with tilapia in my freezer leftover from my fish taco experiment.  Tilapia is a white fish just like flounder so I figured it would work and it sure did.

Prep time takes all of 4 minutes and the fish only needs to bake for about 7 minutes and voila, there you have it.  Dinner in under 15 minutes.  Way better than takeout!

Baked Tilapia Fillets in Lemon-Soy Vinaigrette (adapted slightly from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 6-ounce tilapia fillets (can also use flounder as recipe originally intended)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange fillets in a ceramic or other baking dish just large enough to hold them in one layer.  In a small bowl combine the garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.  Whisk in oil until emulsified and pour vinaigrette over fish.

Bake fish in middle of oven until just cooked through and no longer translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

a dish that will keep the vampires at bay

After discovering last year that I love kale I wanted to find another way to prepare it because even though I could eat kale chips until the cows come home I thought it might be nice to diversify my kale repertoire.

This preparation is equally as simple and slightly more flavorful with the addition of not one, but two different cuts of garlic (sliced and minced) and red pepper flakes.  You can go crazy with the garlic– the recipe suggests 5 to 6 cloves, it just depends on what your plans for the rest of the evening are.  You for sure will be breathing it all night if you go full on with the garlic but on the bright side you will be warding off colds and vampires in equal measure.  Not bad things to do.

The kale is so tender and well-flavored that I could eat a giant bowl of it, and in fact did.  It makes a great side along with fish or pork or chicken or really any old thing you want to pair it with.  Yeah kale!

Kale with Double Garlic (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 pound kale, collards, or broccoli raab, with stems under ¼” thick, well washed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced garlic, about 5 or 6 cloves, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water
  • Lemon wedges

Coarsely chop the stems and leaves of the kale.

Place the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan.  Add the sliced garlic, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute.

Add the kale and the stock or water.  Cover and cook over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and just tender but still a little firm.

Uncover the greens and continue to cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, until the liquid has all but evaporated and the greens are quite tender.  Taste for seasoning and add red or black pepper and salt as needed; add the remaining minced garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve, with lemon wedges.