I can’t remember a past fall that I’ve welcomed with so much enthusiasm as this year’s. Going into my 24th week of pregnancy, the hints of cool in the evening breezes are incredibly enjoyable. This past summer and all of its heavy heat were the most oppressive yet. Even though my blood pressure checks in perfectly, there is some rising fire in me that has easily been escalated by any increase in temperature. Hmm, could this be a strong Pitta baby?
Along with the cool breezes, I’m also enjoying the fruits of fall which mostly means: SQUASH. Succulent, delicious pumpkins, acorns, butternuts, and all the weird ones, too.
It’s super easy to roast up a squash even though they can be difficult to slice while raw. You don’t have to make that many cuts; just slice the average butternut lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and pulp with the side of a spoon, and place fleshy side down on a roasting pan. Pop it into a 325 degree oven for 25-45 minutes (depending on the thickness and size) and test that it’s cooked through with a sharp knife. Let it cool a few minutes before carefully slicing off the skin.
This recipe is inspired by Heidi’s Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter over at 101 Cookbooks. The simplicity and versatility of it is right up my alley and opened my mind to the possibility of enjoying lentils in something other than dhal and kitchari. I made the recipe a few times with different curry powders and, interestingly, found a favorite that’s Vietnamese, not Indian. It’s super fragrant spices make my whole house smell delicious for hours and it has this super cute dude on the package, check him out:
I have to credit Heidi also with my pregnancy addiction to Bulgarian yogurt. She uses thinned out yogurt as a topping on many of her dishes and I find it adds a creamy, tangy layer of flavor that rounds out the whole dish. Brilliant!
Coconut Curried Lentils with Butternut Squash
You can use any variety of lentils you have on hand. I’ve used all brown before,
but most recently a trio of green, yellow, and brown of the same size.
2 Tablespoons ghee, butter, or olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper or hot chili powder
freshly ground black pepper
4-5 cups water
1 can of good, thick coconut milk or cream
1 roasted butternut squash (see above for directions)
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup basmati rice
Bulgarian yogurt & chopped cilantro for garnish
Heat your pan (I love my cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat and sauté the onions, garlic, and spices in the oil until the onions are soft and translucent and the spices are fragrant. Add the rinsed lentils and sauté a couple more minutes, sprinkling generously with salt and pepper. Add the first couple of cups of water and set to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or more. Taste the lentils to see where they are in tenderness and flavor. Add the green beans and 2 more cups of water, and more seasonings if needed. Stir well until cooked through, another 10-15 minutes or so.
While in this last leg of simmering, bring some water to a boil in a separate pot to cook the rice. Since basmati rice is parboiled, it only takes about 8 minutes or so to cook through. Cut the squash into cubes and add to the skillet with the coconut milk, then adjust the seasonings to your liking. I usually end up adding at least twice the spice because I love an intensely flavored dish.
Ladle the curry over a scoop of the rice in a bowl and top with the yogurt and cilantro. Enjoy with a slice of crusty baguette drizzled with olive oil.