It baffles me that archeologists can estimate when a food originated from so long ago. I know it’s based on a multitude of things but I still have to wonder with a bit of awe and question how do they really know? Like with lentils it is estimated they were grown and eaten some 10,000 years ago.
What I do know for sure is cooking with lentils. I was introduced to them my senior year of college at an internship where I worked with lentils and dry peas. It was my job to be creative and incorporate lentils in unusual ways in recipes. So I put them on top of pizza, in spaghetti sauce and in chocolate cake. Sounds bizarre right? Seriously they tasted good. I also took pictures of the recipes – my first experience with food photography.
Here’s one of the pictures I took. I came across it when I was converting slides to jpeg. The food styling is so dated and the picture has shadows. My embarrassment nearly overrode my desire to show you. Photograph aside the chocolate cake tasted really good.
There are many varieties of lentils – brown, green, French, Beluga, red and yellow. Most grocery stores carry brown or green lentils in a plastic package. For the other varieties you will need to hunt them down in the bulk section.
I like the taste of lentils but they taste even better knowing they are good for me to eat (true for kale as well). Thirty percent of their calories are from protein and they are rich in iron. I like lentils even more because they are easy to cook, especially the red ones where the husk disintegrates during cooking making a natural puree. For this they are the perfect soup ingredient and also for their somewhat sweet, nutty flavor.
I’ve kept the ingredients for this vegetarian soup to a minimum. In fact I’ve been challenging myself to keep ingredients to eight or less (not counting salt, pepper and oil.) Even though I was tempted to add things like minced garlic or a pinch of cinnamon I refrained. But feel free to yourself.
The soup is delicious on its own but for those who are inclined to add a spoonful of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro they are nice additions.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped or sliced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 10 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth
- 6 cups peeled, seeded and chopped butternut squash (about one medium size)
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes *see note
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Chopped fresh cilantro, optional topping
- Plain yogurt, optional topping
- Cook onions in oil in a medium stockpot over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and cook and stir to soften, about 1 minute.
- Stir in curry powder and red pepper flakes. Add water, squash, lentils, tomatoes and salt; stir well and bring to a simmer; cook until squash is softened and lentils are soft and falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Season with pepper and additional salt, if needed.