Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

This nutrient dense soup is packed with umami and has a gorgeous color for a delicious, satisfying vegan meal. I could just as easily have called it a stew – it is that thick and hearty! While I might be a bit sad to see the days getting shorter, I always look forward to wearing my fall clothes and eating the wonderful variety of winter squashes and root vegetables. And unlike summer squashes, having winter squashes is like having money in the bank. Kept in a cool, dry place, they will last for weeks or even months. They really were a saving grace during the worst of the pandemic when we tried to only shop once every few weeks.

It’s true that it can often be dreary outside at this time of year, but our food can still be filled with color and flavor. This Winter Squash Lentil Soup has everything going for it in a one-pot meal. Add some bread and maybe a nice glass of wine or some herbal tea and happily call it dinner. Though I would never eschew a nice green salad, it isn’t actually necessary. The kale, chard or spinach that is added at the end will give you more than enough greens and is a beautiful contrast to the bright orange of the squash, carrots and turmeric.

I came across a recipe that looked appealing when I was surfing for ways to use up some lovely squashes I had picked up at the farmers’ market.

Winter Squash Lentil Soup

Nowadays, of course, many large supermarkets also have a good variety of winter squashes available. And I make a delicious curried butternut squash soup every Thanksgiving. But I had never thought about adding lentils before. As I have mentioned in several posts, my husband and I are eating a largely vegetarian diet these days, although we have no plans to give up meat altogether. It does mean, though, that I try to be very conscious of adding in plant protein whenever I can.

The original recipe looked good to me but I wanted to make some changes – as is my wont. So below is the recipe as I made it and it’s wonderful. However, while I used Red Kuri Squash, just about any other orange-fleshed squash would work here. Butternut, carnival or pumpkin squashes all would be delicious. I also chose to go with a chana dal or yellow split pea rather than the green or brown lentils called for in the original. Part of the reason was to maintain that gorgeous color, but I also love that the chana dal maintains its bite even with a long cooking. I always use it 50/50 in my green split pea soup for that reason. If you don’t have them, pretty much any lentil will do.

Not only can you control or adapt the soup to what you have on hand, but you can also decide if you are going for a mellow curried flavor or one that is more spicy. And if you don’t like peanut butter, you can substitute cashew butter or even almond butter. Fall and winter not only bring out the beautiful squashes but also the heartier greens. Dino or lacinato kale, Swiss chard in all of its varieties, collards, mustard or turnip greens. I happen to love beet greens, but it is difficult to come across really nice ones where I live and many grocery stores actually throw them out before they are ever seen by customers.

This hearty soup comes together pretty quickly, making it a nice anytime soup. And while it is rare for me to buy pre-chopped squash, if you are really in a pinch for time, many grocery stores do offer that option. Winter Squash and Lentil Soup can be made ahead and refrigerated. Just gently warm it and add the greens before serving, allowing them to just wilt.

This is a soup to enjoy throughout the fall and winter. It will banish the drears away.

Recipe

Winter Squash and Lentil Soup

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Winter Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon oil (Canola, coconut or EVOO)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 Tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped – about 2 cups

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or diced

1 winter squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)

1 Tablespoon yellow curry powder (hot or not or a mix)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 15 ounce can of coconut milk – full fat, preferably

4 cups of vegetable broth

1 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas (green or brown lentils will work but the color won’t be as lovely), rinsed well and sorted. If your lentils are older, give them an overnight soak. Drain them before using.

3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter without any sugar – smooth or chunky

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

2 good handfuls of baby spinach or kale

Optional Garnishes

Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Chopped roasted peanuts or cashews

Sing Bhujia Masala Peanuts

Chakri

Fresh lime

Directions

Add the oil of choice to a largish pot or Dutch oven. Heat to medium high and add the chopped onions and salt. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add the turmeric powder and curry powder and stir through for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.

Now add the squash, carrot, lentils, garlic and ginger and stir everything well, coating all of the veg with the spices.

Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter and vegetable broth. Mix well and add in the cracked black pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

If you are making this ahead, allow the soup to cool a bit. Using an immersion blender, partially blend the soup. You want to still see some of the chunks of squash. This can also be done in a standing blender. In that case, only blend about 3 cups. Be VERY careful if the soup is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and do not overfill the blender. Start on a low speed to prevent the hot liquid exploding out the top.

Just before you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is hot and add in your greens of choice. Depending on the kind of greens you are using, they may take as little as 3 minutes to wilt (spinach) to more like 20 minutes (collards). I used a Dino kale (lacinato kale) and gave it about 8 minutes. Garnish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated and will last about a week.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)


Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira) is hearty and fragrant – a soul-satisfying one-dish meal. There are many versions of this soup – some with meat and others like this one, which is vegan. In some families it is traditional to serve this as the “break-the-fast” meal following Yom Kippur. But it could and should be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. This is a make-ahead meal that only improves with a bit of age.

To show how vastly different our family traditions can be, my family’s break-the-fast meal was always bagels, lox and smoked fish. We came from New York via Russia Poland. But the truth is that I actually don’t like lox and smoked fish in the Midwest just doesn’t cut it for me. So, as I have with much of our diet during the rest of the year, I have adopted a more Middle Eastern/Mediterranean/South Asian food culture. And a heavily plant-based diet.

I came across a version of this soup on the Jewish Food Society website. It’s a wonderful site that has made it its mission to collect stories and recipes of the myriad Jewish communities across the globe. These are recipes that have been passed down through the generations, but which might have so easily been lost. Because so many of these families were forced from their homes under terrible conditions, it was easy for these unwritten treasures to have fallen by the wayside. While I have found that the recipes on the site are not always easy to follow, especially if you are a novice cook, the family histories alone make the website worth a visit.

While we Jews lived among the local communities, we also remained outside of them, keeping to our own traditions. Local cuisine was adapted to meet the laws of kashrut. Harira, Moroccan Chickpea Soup is a perfect example. Moroccan Muslims would eat harira to break the fast on Ramadan. Whereas many Jews ate it to break the fast on Yom Kippur.

The original recipe for this harira uses fine egg noodles and since I am not a vegan, I did as well. However, there is no reason why an angel hair pasta or spaghettini couldn’t be used instead. That is the only change required to make this wonderful soup vegan.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Moroccan-Chickpea-Soup-Harira6-1024x768.jpg
Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

If you choose to cook your own soaked chickpeas as I have done, you need to start the process the night before. If you prefer to use canned chickpeas, you can still make a delicious and hearty soup. I happen to enjoy cooking my own beans and use the liquid from the cooking process to replace most of the water called for in the recipe. It adds an extra level of nourishment and flavor and helps to further thicken the soup. Unless you are using organic canned beans, however, I would not recommend using the liquid. You could use water, as called for, adding a vegetable bouillon cube or you could use a vegetable stock.

After I had decided to make the recipe I found from the Jewish Food Society, I came across another version from My Jewish Learning, The Nosher. So I ended up doing what I usually do and took the elements that I liked best from both and then tweaked it!

My sister-in-law is from Morocco and I asked what her family’s tradition was for breaking the fast. She told me that their tradition was to eat an egg-drop soup before the fast and cake to break the fast, followed by a full meal. So whatever tradition your family follows – or if you are starting a tradition of your own, I definitely encourage you to fit this wonderful and incredibly soul-satisfying soup in there somehow.

For a version of harira with lamb: Harira – Moroccan Chickpea and Lamb Soup

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Moroccan-Chickpea-Soup-Harira1-914x1024.jpg
Moroccan Chickpea Soup (Harira)

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained OR one 15 oz. can of drained chickpeas

4 Tablespoons olive or a neutral oil like Canola

3 medium carrots (or 2 large), peeled and cut into small dice or rounds

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tablespoon Harissa paste, or to taste (I used 2 Tablespoons of a milder Harissa and added a few crushed red chili flakes)

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup brown lentils OR 1/2 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed

4 large or 6 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped (If making this in the winter, use canned tomatoes, about 28 oz. can)

3 cups fine egg noodles OR angel hair pasta broken into thirds (About 4 to 5 oz. depending on the kind of noodle that you use)

8 cups of vegetable stock, OR water with a couple of bouillon cubes OR the cooking liquid from the chickpeas plus additional water

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

A large handful of cilantro and/or parsley, stems and leaves roughly chopped

Directions

If you are cooking your own soaked chickpeas, place the drained chickpeas in a pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and 4.5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim off any white foam. Cover and cook for 50 minutes at a simmer.

In a large pot, add 4 Tablespoons olive or Canola oil. Add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook for about 6 minutes on medium high heat or until softened. I like to add 1 teaspoon of salt here. I will probably add more later since it is a big pot of soup. However, if you are using broth or bouillon and depending on your Harissa, you might not need much more salt. You can always add it but you cannot easily remove it!

Once the veggies are softened, add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.

Now add the Harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and stir through to coat everything well. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomato paste to the bottom of the pot. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

If you are using your own chickpeas you can add them to the pot. I find that when I cook chickpeas myself, they retain their shape and bite even when cooked longer. If you are using canned chickpeas, you will add them in later. Your lentils are also added now. Give everything a good stir to coat with the spices and tomato paste.

Next add the tomatoes, broth, water or liquid from the chickpeas, the chopped stems of the parsley and/or cilantro. Don’t worry if there are some leaves in there as well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. This can be done ahead.

When you are ready to eat, return the heat to a boil and add the noodles and canned chickpeas, if using. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and check your seasonings. The soup should be very thick, almost stew like. If you want it thinner then add more liquid. Add the juice of 1/2 of a lemon. Garnish with the chopped parsley/cilantro leaves.

Enjoy!



Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Perfect for Thanksgiving

Maybe you aren’t all as compulsive as I am and you don’t plan your Thanksgiving dinner weeks in advance. Actually, I don’t think I do it out of obsessiveness so much as I just find it incredibly fun to think about what I will be making and then putting together the best recipes I can. This soup is wonderful any time, but I like to keep it for Thanksgiving. I do that with certain recipes, whether it is for the Jewish holidays or secular holidays. This soup not only tastes wonderful but it is such a pretty color. I serve it in my Staub pumpkin soup bowls and it is always a hit. Now because I won’t be making this until a couple of days BEFORE Thanksgiving I won’t have any photos to add until then. But since I hope that some of you may want to make this for the holiday, I am including it without the photos for now. You will just have to trust me that this beautiful and delicious soup is worth making.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into about ½ inch pieces (about 3 cups)

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, chopped

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder (I used a mix of hot curry powder and mild ratio 1:2)

2.75 cups + 1 TBS chicken or vegetable broth (vegan)

6 oz. canned coconut milk (Do not use Light Coconut Milk)

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

salt & white pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel squash and cut into pieces.
  2. Heat 1 Tablespoon broth in medium soup pot. Healthy Sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, and continue to sauté for another minute. Add turmeric, curry powder, and mix well. Add squash and broth, and mix. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend with coconut milk. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Thin with a little broth if needed. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Reheat, and add cilantro.

NOTE: I tripled the recipe for Thanksgiving and the only thing I changed was that I used two 13.5 oz. cans of coconut milk for the pot.

Pumpkin Pie – and it’s vegan!

Vegan Pumpkin PieI am not a vegan, however, I have beloved family members who keep Kosher and one who is deathly allergic to eggs. As you can imagine, this can present quite a challenge when it comes to desserts – especially for the holidays. And I have an aversion to making something with substitutes that isn’t almost as wonderful as the real thing. It’s taken some searching and experimentation, but I think that my vegan pumpkin pie is as good as pumpkin pie with milk and eggs. It has the right taste and mouthfeel. So if I didn’t have to work within these restrictions would I still make the vegan version – probably not, but when I eat this do I feel as if I am “making do?” Definitely not. It’s one darn good pumpkin pie. And my niece, who has eaten both, swears she likes this version better! cut pumpkin pie

Vegan Pumpkin Pie      

Ingredients

1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (I use the Crisco recipe)

12 ounces silken tofu, blended until liquefied

1 recipe non-dairy condensed milk (see attached recipe)

15 ounce can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 rounded teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground clove

2 Tablespoons molasses or buckwheat honey

3-5 cracks of black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth and well-blended
  3. Pour into pie shell and bake on the lowest rack of the oven for 10 minutes Pumpkin Pie ready for oven
  4. Cover the crust with foil or a pie guard and continue baking for about 30 minutes more or until the center just jiggles a little. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave the pie in the oven for 10 more minutes. Don’t worry if it cracks a bit and poofs up. It will settle down as it cools. My baked filling is very dark because of the spices and molasses.
  5. Allow to cool thoroughly. This tastes best when made a day ahead.
  6. Because this is not a real custard, you don’t have to worry about refrigerating it.

I brought this to my niece’s house for Shabbat and it is the favorite dessert of my goddaughter/great niece.

Talia and pumpkin pieTalia digging in

Instant Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk Alternative

Author: Alisa Fleming

Serves: Makes approximately 14 ounces

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free, vanilla milk powder (I used Growing Naturals Organic Vanilla Rice Milk Drink but I’m not sure this is still available, so you might look for either a soy-based version if you have no issues with soy or Better Than Milk brand Rice Beverage Powder Mix – Vanilla. I have not yet tried either of these, so I am going off of reviews on the internet. )
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons canola, rice bran or grapeseed oil
  • Generous pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Place the rice milk powder and sugar in your blender. Whiz the ingredients for about 30 seconds, or until powdered.
  2. Add the water, oil, and salt to your blender and blend for 2 minutes, or until thick and creamy.
  3. Use as a substitute for sweetened condensed milk in recipes.