12 September 2011

Kabocha French Lentil Soup

We've just started getting winter squashes from our CSA this past week, even though it seems a bit early doesn't it? Well, this very first week, the only squashes in the bin were of a kind that I hadn't really paid any attention to before. Oh, I'd heard of kabocha squashes, but I always went for the varieties more familiar to me such as butternut or acorn or even delicata. Silly me didn't even recognize what she picked up for being kabocha and didn't remember to ask before she left with it in her bag.

Fortunately, roasting winter squashes is all so much the same, and while it was roasting I was looking for a new and interesting recipe. During that search, lo and behold, I figured out exactly what I had and came upon the following delightful recipe without hardly trying. The agricultural gods must love me.

The ginger I find to be much more important than the anise, but maybe that was because I didn't have any fennel to really bring out that licorice flavor. Regardless, kabochas are sweet squashes and spices that accent that feature couldn't go wrong in here. I found that the squash could have used a little coaxing to really integrate with the soup, which is why I added the optional step of pureeing it before it goes in with the lentils.

Overall, it is an ugly looking soup, but it tastes phenomenal. I'm definitely going to do this again, either with more kabocha or some butternut like the person who posted the recipe suggested. I might even think about doing this with some sweet potato, as I think it would have a very appropriate taste and texture.

Kabocha French Lentil Soup
adapted (a little) from here
Serves 4 - 6

1 kabocha or other dark orange winter squash, ~1-1/2 lb
1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
5 coins ginger, 1/8-inch thick
between 10 to 20 aniseeds
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, medium dice
(1 leek, sliced into 1/4 moons)
(1 fennel bulb, medium dice)
red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the top third of the oven.

2. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Oil and salt the squash and roast cut side down with the bottom of the pan covered in 1/4" of water for about 45 to 60 minutes or until tender.

3. Take squash out and let cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop out cooked squash and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, in a large pot, combine the lentils, ginger, aniseeds and 6 cups water. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon salt.

5. In a separate sauté pan, sauté the onion (and leek and fennel if you choose) until tender.

6. Remove the ginger coins from the lentil sauce pan.

(Optional step 6.5 For a smoother consistency, puree the squash with the lentil broth)

7. Add the squash and the vegetables to the lentils and broth in the stock pot. Stir well and cook for another 15 minutes or so, allowing the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning here with more salt if needed. I used red pepper flakes as well.