Tuesday, October 02, 2007

autumn harvest

My favorite time of year. Even if it's still pretty warm out, I'm getting really excited for the fall - the crisp air, the turning leaves, apple cider and pumpkins. It's the time of year when the food gets hearty and warming, and somehow more nourishing and satisfying. Last night I had a little salute to the flavors of autumn with a Curried Red Lentil Stew and Roasted Delicata Squash Rings. The flavors of fall.

Winter squashes are a staple for me at this time of year. Incredibly easy to prepare and delicious with hardly any adornment. I love delicata squash for it's subtle sweetness. It is the perfect size and shape for this preparation, and cooks up incredibly quickly, skins and all, in approximately the same amount of time as the stew.

Lentils in general are a favorite of mine for their hearty flavor, and red lentils are especially handy because they cook up incredibly quickly. I make a variety of lentil stews that are probably never the same twice, but always satisfying. I take the opportunity to throw in a lot of super healthy veggies to amp up the vitamin content, always a good idea in the colder months. Last night's stew featured an ugly but tasty ingredient - celery root.

Celery root reminds me of something out of that movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. If you've ever seen that, I think you'll know what I mean. But despite it's ugliness, it's a surprisingly tasty vegetable. When simply sauteed, celery root - or celeriac - reminds me of Thanksgiving, that intense concentration of celery scent calling to mind a classic turkey stuffing. Despite it's starchy feel and ease of standing in for potatoes, celery root is actually relatively low in carbs, for those of you out there who are concerned with such things, which I am not. Celery root - sometimes referred to as the 'Rastafarian turnip' for obvious reasons - is far more appealing once you cut away the outer knobs and stringy skin. Cut into a small dice, it cooks as quickly as the lentils and adds not only vitamin C and calcium, but really bulks up the stew without adding too many calories and hardly any fat.

Recipes after the jump:

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

2 medium delicata squash
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425ยบ. Wash the whole squash, taking care to scrub off any dirt from the skin. Slice the squash crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. In a large bowl, toss the squash rings with the olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes, turn, then bake another 9 minutes or until golden brown.

Curried Red Lentil Stew
Note: I did not measure amounts of spices for this recipe, I simply added and tasted as I went along. All of these amounts are approximate and can be adjusted for taste, and many different herbs and spices are interchangeable. This recipe also makes a large amount and can be easily halved.

1 pound dry red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups or more water
2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 inch piece Kombu seaweed (they say it helps cut down on gassiness, who knows...)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp Madras curry powder, or more, to taste
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried sage
3 tbsp hot sauce (sriracha or tabasco would work fine)
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch lacinato kale, roughly chopped

In a large, heavy stockpot, heat oil, then add onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the cubed celery root and sautee for a minute or two. Add the dry lentils and saute to coat with oil. Add the vegetable stock and water to cover the lentils by at least 1 inch. You can adjust the water depending on how soupy you would like the stew. Add all herbs and spices, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover. Simmer 10-15 minutes until lentils are al dente. Add the chopped kale and allow to simmer 5 more minutes until completely wilted. Serve over brown basmati rice or with a slice of crusty whole grain bread.


Leah said...

Do you eat the skins on the delicata squash? It's so pretty.

faycat said...

Yes you can eat the skins. I like them as a textural contrast to the flesh, which gets very soft. And it's good fiber!

And actually, any kind of squash has edible skin, some are just harder than others and would require much more cooking. I love delicatas for this dish because the skin is softer and cooks quickly.