Why does 2010 have to begin with such cold weather? I thought when I moved to Georgia, I would experience warm winters and perfect weather. Instead since I relocated to Atlanta, we’ve had torrential rain, flooding, a tornado, and now freezing weather. Aside from the less than ideal weather patterns, Georgia has been a great place to live and I’m happy to be here for the start of 2010.
While I’m definitely not a cold weather person, I must say that I love an excuse to make hearty soups and stews, a perfectly fitting meal for this season. Soups and stews are a particularly great meal to serve when entertaining a large group. You can make the soup earlier in the day and then just let it sit on the stove, and reheat when ready to serve. We have a small apartment with a small dining room table, so people can enjoy this meal on their laps. A good stew and a glass of red wine. Perfect!
Last Saturday I made Heidi Swanson’s Chunky Lentil Soup for a group of seven. I always double soup recipes and freeze the extra because they reheat well. This is one of my favorite soup recipes and it is so easy, especially when I enlisted David to be my sous chef and do most of the chopping. On Saturday night I served the chunky lentil soup with Gluten Free Girl’s Cornbread and we snacked on cheese and GF crackers as well.
Chunky Lentil Soup (adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking)
Serves 4 to 6 (I just double all of the ingredients.)
1-1/4 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed (Any variety is fine. I used a combination this time.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2-1/2 cups diced butternut or winter squash (1/4 inch dice) (This is the most intensive component of this recipe. The rest is very easy.)
One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water or vegetable broth/stock
1 teaspoon fine grained sea salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. (I turned down the heat to medium-low once I add the lentils. They’ll continue cooking when you add them to the stew too.)
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat, then add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the squash, tomatoes and water/broth, and continue cooking until the squash is tender, about 12-15 minutes.
Drain the lentils and stir them in, along with salt, pepper and chili powder.
Let the soup return to a gentle simmer, then taste and adjust seasoning if need be.
Serve, topped with parmesan.
Sadly, David is out of town this week so I made a double batch to have some easy meals in the fridge. Last night my friend Meredith came over for dinner and I just reheated the soup and cornbread. Still delicious!
I’ve been wanting to try making Brussels sprouts recently (after eating perfectly prepared ones made by my friend, Laurel) so I decided to try experimenting with Brussels sprouts to serve with my leftover chunky lentil soup. I figured if it was a total failure, we still had enough food for a meal.
Of course I went back to Heidi Swanson for guidance preparing the Brussels sprouts. I love that this recipe is so simple, using the natural flavors of this odd vegetable, that often gets such a bad reputation. I love recipes that only involve four ingredients, including olive oil!
Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts (or however many you have)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated cheese of your choice (I used parmesan to go with the parmesan on the lentil soup.)
Trim the stem ends of the sprouts and remove any outer leaves that have browned. Cut each sprout in half, from stem to top and rub in olive oil. (Be gentle, so they don’t fall apart.)
Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Be careful not to overheat or he outside will cook to quickly. (I actually put stove top on med-low.)
Place sprouts in pan, flat side down, sprinkle with a couple of pinches of salt, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. They will start to brown some on the bottom.
Taste to see if done, if not, let continue cooking for a few more minutes.
I stopped here and sprinkled with parmesan cheese and more S & P. They were delicious. If you have more time and want to cook them more, continue with Heidi’s remaining steps:
Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Sprinkle with cheese, S & P. Serve immediately. Even if you are skeptical of Brussels sprouts, you should try this recipe! Meredith and I ate all of our sprouts. (I told her she didn’t have to.)
Stay warm this week, wherever you are!