Spicy Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas, and Goat Cheese

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I apologize in advance for the brain-dump this is about to be…it’s just one of those posts!

This week Sean, Casper, and I made a quick overnight trip to Seattle. I wanted to go to Jessica’s book signing and Sean wanted to visit his BFF. It was super quick, but so fun! Casper and I met up for coffee with Jessica and her mom (who is SO sweet and friendly) before the event and she is the best! Really, just as warm, funny, and conversational as her blog. I loved it. It’s always super fun to meet someone you correspond with on the internets, in real life. On a side note, the book store where the signing took place, The Book Larder, is AMAZING. It’s a bookstore exclusively dedicated to cookbooks and it’s wonderful. If you are ever in Seattle, definitely go there.

After that Casper and I met up with Sean, his BFF and his wife, and had pizza and salad at their apartment and met their HUGE, soft, sweet Burnese pup.  It was a fun, whirlwind-ish mid-week trip. I was a little nervous how Casper would fare, being in the car for 3 hours each way, roaming around Seattle, and sleeping in a strange place, but he was a total champ and mostly napped the whole time. I was super impressed, and a little jealous of his napping skills, ha!

After we got home, I discovered all of my succulents had spider mites…insert cringey-face-emoji!!! I am super squeamish about any kind of insect, even the teensiest ones, so I moved those suckers outside and am currently mourning the loss of my succulents/trying not to freak out/itch my face off.

Now that I’ve grossed you out with bug-talk, lets talk food. I know…cringe…SORRY.

Anyway, before I left, I made this stew…and full disclosure, I’ve totally posted a similar recipe on the blog before. This version is a bit different and I thought it was worth a revamp/revisit. I love this stew and it’s variations for a lot of reasons. It’s easy and quick, filling, warm from all the spices, vegetarian, and pretty cheap to make with on-hand pantry staples…plus, it’s totally adaptable. This version contains plenty of butternut squash that brings a bit of welcome sweetness against the spiciness of the serrano chiles. Red lentils and chickpeas make this stew hearty and filling without the addition of meat. I love to serve this stew with a tangy, creamy cheese one top, or even a hefty dollop of greek yogurt, for some tang and creaminess. Fresh cilantro and lemon brighten up the party and are a nice contrast to the warm spices. 

[recipe]

Print Recipe

Spicy Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas, and Goat Cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

2 serrano peppers, seeded and diced

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 cups diced butternut squash

1/2 cup dry, red lentils

1, 15.5 ounce, can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1, 28 ounce, can crushed tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

salt to taste

juice of 1 lemon

soft goat cheese

cilantro

lemon wedges and pita to serve

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, celery, and serrano, plus a small pinch of salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and the onions are translucent. Add the minced ginger and garlic, and cook about 1 minute before adding the tomato paste, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric, stir well to combine and cook for a few minutes until the tomato paste becomes deep red. Then, add in the butternut squash, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and chicken stock, all at once. Stir well to combine, taste for salt, then bring the stew to a boil. Once the stew is boiling turn it down to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils and squash are tender. Taste again for salt, season as desired. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Serve generous portions of the stew with crumbled goat cheese, cilantro, lemon wedges, and warmed pita bread. [/recipe]

Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

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Albondigas!

That’s what I think/say when I make anything with meatballs. It’s just a reflex and since it means “meatballs” in spanish, it works. Don’t test me on my knowledge of foreign languages, though…okay? Cause, I will surely fail. Food SO is much easier to understand.

Anyway, this soup begins with searing little, spoonable chicken meatballs flavored with lots of fresh cilantro, some sauteed onion and garlic, and a bit of minced jalapeno for heat and excitement. Once the meatballs are brown and crispy-golden we sauté some more onion and garlic, another jalapeno, plus some carrots. There’s some corn (frozen is totally acceptable) and zucchini in there for health and science. Dried New Mexico chiles ground into a powder and cumin flavor and color the broth. More cilantro is added to brighten the party and bring the soup together. This soup is hearty, but not heavy. The clear broth is light but packed with subtly spiced chile flavor and the meatballs are tender and so flavorful with the cilantro and aromatics. This soup is so warming and with a super cheesy quesadilla on the side, it’s perfection on a cold day.

Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

I find whole, dried New Mexico chiles in the international aisle of my regular supermarket. They are always affordable and pack a lot of flavor. The chiles vary in spiciness, but aren’t ever really super-hot-blow-your-top way. The spice is mild to medium, but you could certainly sub in your favorite chile powder. 

Meatballs:

1-2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), minced

1 lb. ground chicken

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

salt/pepper

In a sauté pan heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook over medium until onions are tender and translucent  Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl mix together the cooled onion/jalapeno mixture with the ground chicken, cilantro, egg, and breadcrumbs. Add salt (I used about 3/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Mix gently to combine well. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to shape and sear meatballs.

Soup:

meatballs

2 Tablespoons oil (I used grape seed, light olive or vegetable oil work too)

1/2 large onion, diced fine

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), sliced

4 dried New Mexico chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 carrot, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 cup frozen corn kernels

6 cups low-sodium chicken stock

cilantro to garnish

salt and pepper to taste

Shape meatballs, I shoot for something that fits nicely in the spoon and can be eaten in one bite–think larger than a marble, but smaller than a cherry tomato. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat in the bottom of a dutch oven or soup pot. Sear the meatballs in batches until deep golden brown all around. Place seared meatballs in a dish and set aside.

Over a gas burner (you could also do this in a hot oven, it may take a few more minutes), lightly char the chiles–the idea is to make them extra dry for easier grinding and to add a touch of smokey flavor. Cool chiles and grind in a spice grinder to a medium-coarse powder. Mix chile powder with cumin and oregano in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the onion to the remaining oil and whatever brown bits are left in the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté, being sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan, add the carrots. Cook until onions are just translucent and carrots begin to soften, add the garlic and jalapeno, cook an additional minute. Stir in the ground chile and other spices. Add the corn, zucchini, meatballs, and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, taste for salt and season as needed. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook an additional 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and meatballs are heated through. Serve hot with additional cilantro for garnish.

 

 

Recipe…Method? Black Beans

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Are you a dried bean evangelist?

No?

Me neither.

I usually just go the canned route. I don’t usually think that far ahead.

This week though, I totally did. I was at the store doing some grocery shopping and decided to go for the dried beans.

I was just feeling ambitious is all, and guess what?

It really wasn’t all that technical.

Plus, those dried black beans were so tiny and dainty…I couldn’t resist!

I mean, soak some beans in cold water over night and throw ‘em in a pan with some other tasty goods, simmer, and done.

After the soaking those beans were a little more plump, shiny, and oh-so-pretty.

Yeah, I said it, black beans = pretty.

There’s really not a lot of hands-on happening here, just time and a little bit of forethought.

Who knew?

Lots of people I’m sure, but not me.

Now, I do though, and I feel all fancy-pants about it.

Learnin’ stuff everyday…

So, put on your fancy-pants one of these days and try it out.

Water, beans, salt, garlic, onion, a little cilantro, and jalapeno turn into a delicious, bean studded elixer and you’ll wonder why you never attempted this whole dried bean thing before.

You won’t regret it, I promise! ‘Cause when those humble, dried beans are bubbling away you’ll know some kind of magic is happening in that pot.

Simple Black Beans

So, this isn’t really a recipe, just a basic method on how to cook up some dried black beans.

You could really do this with any dried bean, in whatever quantity you want. You can also make this even simpler and cut down on the extra ingredients–like, if you happen to be adverse to cilantro or spicy things, you can just skip out on those. You could even add different herbs and dried spices (oregano! cumin!). You could even use stock, but I think water works just fine…those beans have their own flavor. Do what you want.

the night before:

1 cup dried black beans

Place 1 cup of black beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Make sure there are at least 2 inches of water over your beans as they will absorb a lot of it.

get cookin’:

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/2 of a large, yellow onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

a few sprigs of fresh cilantro

soaked beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

a big pinch of salt, to taste

At this point you can either drain your beans of the soaking liquid (I did) or use it to cook with.

In a medium sauce pot or in a deep, covered pan (I used an enameled, cast-iron braiser) place beans, olive oil, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and cilantro into your pan. Cover completely with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. At this point, add your salt. Cook an additional 30 minutes to 2+ hours. My beans were tender after about 1 1/2 hours, but it really depends on how old your dried beans are. Start checking the beans for doneness after about 1 hour.

I implore you not to pour off the cooking liquid. It is an elixer of the bean gods. The bean liquid is SO, SO delicious. I left mine in the pan and mashed the beans with the liquid…liked refried beans without the refrying! You could also leave the beans whole, bathed in the cooking liquid…it has a TON of flavor, so don’t waste it!