Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Lentil Soup with Kabocha and Cumin




These gorgeous kabochas are from Race Farm, at Union Square on Mondays. These kabochas are just getting better and better as the winter progresses. They are some of the loveliest most satiny and intensely flavored squash I have ever tasted. Thank you Race Farm!

Thanks as well are due Sweetnicks, who has valiantly begun collecting blog-posts that employ “ARFs” or Antioxidant rich foods. Thank you Sweetnicks!

While I was waiting to buy my squash I had the following conversation with a family browsing among the vegetables:

Wee Bairn: What’s that enormous thing?
Doting Maternal Unit: I don’t know.
Chocolate Lady: That’s a hubbard squash!
Doting Maternal Unit: Oh, is that a hubbard?
Chocolate Lady: Yes! It’s the Bette Davis of Squash.
Wee Bairn: I hate squash.
Doting Maternal Unit: No you don’t.
Chocolate Lady: Even the kabochas?
Wee Bairn: Well, maybe not the kabochas.

Mr. Chocolate Lady is deeply fond of lentils, so I am often trying to make up new lentil soups. Kabochas and lentils are an especially felicitous pairing, with the sweetness and softness of the squash complementing the austerity lentils. Cumin brings the soup together. This soup is almost effortless to prepare. Once again, I made a big pot of soup, but you can probably halve this recipe with no ill effects.

Lentil Soup with Kabocha and Cumin

Olive oil
2 large or three medium onions
Two teaspoons whole cumin seeds
Seven large celery ribs: About half of one head of celery—2 or 2 ½ cups sliced
5 cloves garlic, sliced (not diced or minced)
2 cups plain brown lentils
One medium kabocha about 1 ½ pounds
12 or so sprigs flat leaf parsley (half of one bunch) minced

Dice the onions. Heat olive oil in a large soup kettle. Add the diced onions and whole cumin seeds. Cook until the onions are quite soft, about 15 minutes. De-stringify the celery and either dice them or slice into little moons. Add celery and sliced garlic to the pot with the onions and continue cooking for another fifteen minutes or so. Meanwhile, pick over and rinse the lentils and cut the kabocha into medium dice that will be small enough to fit comfortably in a soupspoon but large enough to show off the vivid colors. Add squash and lentils to the soup pot along with about three quarts of water and a tablespoon of salt. Raise heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, de-scum, and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the squash and lentils are tender. Add minced parsley and taste for seasonings. A squeeze of lemon juice is sometimes nice with this.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Ven Mum said...

How do you de-stringify celery? I never grated it for that reason, i.e., I always wound up with water and strings. On the other hand, cutting it up into little moons seemed to moot the problem.

-- Ven Mum

9:14 PM

3:20 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

Thrice Venerable Mother,

To de-stringify celery, you may either peel the celery ribs with a regular vegetable peeler, or use a paring knife to make a shallow cut at one end and then pull the strings free between the blade and the side of your forefinger.

It is true that if the celery is cut into small enough pieces, strings are not so terribly intrusive.

With deep filial respect,
the chocolate lady

3:27 PM  

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