Ah, mid winter holiday. In celebration of Washington and Lincoln's birthdays, I paid bills, unpacked from my trip to Seattle, did laundry, and cleaned out the fridge (JR apparently survived on pizza and bacon in my absence). I also thought about what to eat in the coming day and coming week.
I came across the following recipe on 101cookbooks. It initially caught my eye because I thought I had a butternut squash patiently waiting to be consumed on the counter (though when I noted its absence, JR reminded me that I already used it to make aztec squash soup last week). But by that time, I'd already read through the recipe and was hooked. It meant trying a number of things for the first time:
1. Star anise - it's a beautiful spice and it smells amazing. I was curious how this would combine with ginger to flavor the soup. How much like black licorice would it taste, exactly?
2. Fennel bulb - this veggie has only entered my kitch twice before; I have never tried cooking with it, and was excited to see what would happen.
3. French lentils - how are they different from lentil lentils? No idea. Time to find out.
It turns out that my French lentil knowledge (or rather, complete lack thereof) was tested at the grocery store. I stood, staring at the shelves of lentils and beans, unable to see anything that said "French Lentil". iPhone to the rescue. Through this informative lentil site, I learned that French Lentils are also called French Green Lentils. There were green lentils on the shelf, but no French descriptor. Upon closer reading of the site, it was confirmed that green lentils are another name for brown lentils, which are the lentils I've used in curries before, and which are not the same as French green lentils. Still no French lentils to be found.
Just as I had resolved to stop by another grocery store on my way home, I thought to take a look in the bulk foods section. Bingo! French Green Lentils. They were dark and speckled, just like my handy lentil site had pictured. I also learned how they are different from brown lentils: they remain firm after cooking and have a rich flavor.
Enough about lentils. On to the soup!
French Lentil & Roasted Squash Soup
1 butternut squash*
1 c. French green lentils, rinsed
5 1/8-inch thick rounds of fresh ginger
1 whole star anise
6 c. water
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
red pepper flakes
*The original recipe calls for a kabocha squash. The grocery store didn't have any on hand, so I substituted butternut squash, which worked well.
Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp. Oil cut sides and place cut sides down in a baking dish. Roast in 425 degree oven 45-60 minutes, until soft. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine lentils, ginger, anise, and water. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Add sea salt.
In a large soup pot, combine olive oil, onion, leek, and fennel. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until soft, 7-10 minutes.
Remove the star anise and ginger from lentils. Add lentils (with broth) and squash to veggies. Stir well. Cook an additional 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Season with additional salt if needed and a dash of red pepper flakes.
As I approached the "put it all together" step, I became concerned that this might be a really weird soup. But weird it was not. It was flavorful and hearty and is definitely something I will make again. Ah, mid winter holiday. :-)
One year ago: garlicky kale