I have a confession to make. Since the opening of the Plein Air art exhibit, I have had a recurring cold. I’ve spent the days during the week before my adventures in southern Idaho, and the days after my return from it before my poetry reading dealing with the return of a virus that doesn’t want to leave. And after my reading, it came back yet again. Nothing too horrible, just a stuffy nose, a funny feeling in my head and gut, a few sneezes, and a foggy idea about whether I’m actually hot or cold. So this past weekend I regretfully skipped Poetry Night and have cleared the decks to rest up and stay out of large groups of people trading papers until this bug is gone for good. Fingers crossed.
When I need the vegan equivalent of chicken soup, lentils are my go-to food. They are easy, relatively inexpensive and they cook up quickly. And red lentils cook up quickest of all. They are little powerhouses of nutrition and anti-oxidants. And the Palouse, where I live, is one of the biggest lentil growing regions in the world. So I can eat local too.
I have a lot of pictures of this dish because I’ve been making it for several weeks off and on, hoping to get a chance to blog about it. And because it really does help me feel better when I am under the weather. When I first started making this as a soup, I used yellow summer squash, which thickened the soup slightly and gave it a mild sweet flavor.
But now that the summer squash are all gone and winter squash are abundant, I gave it a new treatment by adding a delicata squash from my garden. The cubes of delicata give it a buttery flavor and an even more stew-like consistency. The basic recipe is inspired by the Esselstyn’s Marakesh Express Red Lentil Soup in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I kept their lineup of spices, adding celery seed and fennel, but changed up and added vegetables for different flavors and used less broth for a thicker texture, topping it all off with my “slow miracle” cooking technique. I like my results even better than the original.
Here are some shots of my prep:
Delicata squash is very easy to peel. The skin is so thin you can use a carrot peeler. That’s what I did. The peelings I put in the freezer along with the leek ends and other goodies I use to make my Everything But the Kitchen Sink Broth.
And here’s the line-up of ingredients all set to go into the stew–except for the grated ginger. I never remember it until the last minute. It wasn’t the last minute when I took the photo, so I hadn’t remembered it yet.
And here’s everything in the pot ready to come to the boil:
Slow Miracle Red Lentil Delicata Squash Stew
1 leek, sliced (just the white part)
about 1 cup of cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
3-4 medium sized tomatoes, chopped ( you can use canned, but it’s a little different. Just use 1 cup, not the whole can)
1 delicata squash, peeled and cubed
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp of celery seeds
1/4 tsp of powedered fennel
a heaping 1/2 tsp of tumeric
a heaping 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
a heaping tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup of cooked chickpeas
1 cup of uncooked red lentils
5 cups of broth
fresh lemon juice
chopped cilantro (optional)
Saute the leek in a few tablespoons of water or broth until tender and falling apart. Add the veggies and the spices with a little more broth and combine to coat everything with the spices, especially the tumeric and cinnamon. Add lentils, chickpeas and the five cups of broth.(For my broth, I like to use a combination of cooking water from the chickpeas and my Everything But the Kitchen Sink Broth. In a pinch I use steam water leftover from steaming veggies.) Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer, cover and let cook until everything is tender, about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Now comes the slow miracle part: make this at lunchtime, but don’t eat it for lunch. Once you get to this point, turn off the stew and let it sit on the stove for the afternoon. That evening, turn it on the lowest heat your burner has while you do some yoga, pay bills, walk the dog, watch the news, fold the laundry, whatever you like. Stir it once or twice. About 35-40 minutes later it should be nice and hot, barely simmering. Turn off the heat and add 1 tbs of lemon juice ( or more to taste) and an optional handful of chopped cilantro. (For the cilantro intolerant or those of you who forgot to buy it at the store, don’t worry. It’s still absolutely delicious without the cilantro.)
Romeo guarding our pile of leaves while I checked on the stew.