It’s that pumpkin time of year!
Every autumn, there’s a three or four week period where pumpkins are everywhere and in everything, from our spiced lattes to our breads and bagels.
This year there must have been a bumper crop, because pumpkins are cheaper than I’ve ever seen them. Yesterday, I paid $2.98 for an enormous pumpkin the size of a basketball, which I quickly chopped in half, seeded and roasted off for its delicious and versatile meat.
In this vegetarian recipe, I used pumpkin as a thickening agent for a pretty traditional lentil soup. Lentils are are a type of bean — also known as a pulse – that are in the legume family.
Lentils are a staple of many vegetarian diets because vegetarians and vegans don’t eat animal protein, so they must supplement their diet with plenty of protein-rich lentils.
Lentils also are one of the oldest of all known foods, having been part of the human diet since at least the Neolithic periiod. They were one of the first foods that humans grew themselves, rather than gathered in the wild, with archeological evidence showing that they were eaten 9,500 to 13,000 years ago.
What I like about lentils are their versatility and their flavor. They make excellent cold salads, can be added to other dishes to contribute density, and can be mashed up, combined with other vegetables and be used as a veggie burger. They also can be served as a side dish, and, as seen here, they make delicious, hearty soups.
Lentils come in a variety of colors, including brown, red and green. Their flavor is sort of like a combination of kidney beans and peas. They have a meaty texture to them when cooked.
Unlike other dried beans, lentils don’t have to cook forever before they are done. Just simmer them in liquid for about 45 minutes and they are ready to eat. Dried lentils should be cooked in a 4:1 liquid ratio. So if you are cooking one cup of lentils, you should use 4 cups of water or other liquid.
Lentil and Pumpkin Soup
1 cup Dried Lentils
15.5 oz can Vegetable Stock
2 cups Water
1TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 White Onion, medium dice
2 Celery Stalks, medium dice
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
10 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 Bay Leaf
1-1/2 cups Cooked Pumpkin
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1 oz Queso Fresco (for garnish)
1. Fill a soup pot with water and add lentils. Stir them around to clean them, discarding any beans that float to surface. Drain and set aside.
2.Place the pot over a medium fire. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onions, celery and carrots. Stir and cook until softened, about two minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add lentils, paprika, vegetable stock, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook about 30 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, replace cover and cook until lentils are soft, about another 15 to 20 minutes. Add enough pumpkin to thicken the soup to desired consistency, season to taste with S&P and continue cooking just until pumpkin is heated through, about five minutes.
4. Remove bay leaf, ladle into bowls, garnish with queso fresco and serve.
I actually cooked my lentil and pumpkin soup in my new crock pot, combining all the ingredients — except the tomatoes and pumpkin — and cooking on low for 8 hours. I just threw the tomatoes for the last hour and thickened it with the pumpkin at the end. It turned out wonderful.
A programming note: For those who have been wondering why there have been long absences in this blog recently, there are two reasons: 1.) My freelance writing business has picked up substantially (yay!) and 2.) Sandi and I spent a long, relaxing weekend on Siesta Key, Florida, with my family earlier this month.