Do you have the feeling that the Christmas and winter holiday season was ages ago? I certainly do, not so much because a long time has passed, but because so many events and activities have happened since. And I’m not talking about out of the ordinary or amazing events. In fact, January is probably one of those months (September would be another one) when everything goes back to normal —the restart of old routines, the beginning of new projects; but more than anything, a month of inwardness, of restarts, of cleaning and organizing, in literal and figurative terms. In one word, January is a month of resetting. This lentil and butternut squash soup, that I make often during winter, seemed appropriate for this time of year (a particularly cold January).
Resetting. This one word, that in itself doesn’t sound negative, in that everything starts at zero, took a new meaning for me recently. After the happiest of Christmas, with my mom and sisters, brothers-in-law and nieces and nephews visiting us in Fort Wayne for a couple of weeks, on January 5 all the routines started again. The day before, January 4, our relatives flew back to Valencia, my oldest son started an internship prior to his departure to Switzerland for a study abroad college semester, and my two youngest sons started school. The next couple of days were spent cleaning, re-organizing, removing and storing Christmas decorations, and basically resetting the house and the routines. The whirlwind cooking and baking of the holiday season slowed down, but the photo taking and new year of blogging started. Yes, I had cooked a lot during Christmas, but while feeding a household of fifteen, I hadn’t had any time to blog or take any photos of the meals before they made it to the table.
On January 5, as I changed sheets, cooked, styled, photographed, paid bills, filed, and missed everybody terribly, I was excited about my next blog post. I didn’t know what recipe I would post, but had a few in line ready to be published. What I did know, though, is that this was going to be a very special post, where I’d share in the happiness of our family Christmas. Little did I know that this excitement and anticipation would come to an abrupt halt when both my phone and my laptop crashed. I couldn’t believe this was happening again! And again, it happened after a holiday (and therefore a period of massive photo taking). Matthew was leaving for Switzerland in a few days, and there were a lot of documents and paperwork that still had to get finalized before his departure. This clash with technology couldn’t be happening again!
It has taken a number of days, and a trip to Indianapolis on what was possibly the worst traveling day of the year, with black ice on the road and snow falling, on different stretches of my drive, to have all my gadgets (or should I say my work tools) functioning again. The word reset now conjures very dark thoughts in my head: the reset of my phone meant the loss of all the data, photos and movies I had collected throughout Christmas, and that, mindless me, hadn’t backed up.
But here I am, finally, with my first blog post of the year, and a recipe that has been very comforting for us lately, as the winter bug has hit our house (yes, that happened as well!) Soups and stews and braises is all we crave lately, and this lentil and butternut squash soup has all the flavors of winter, and the comfort of a fuzzy blanket —nothing better for the chills the sniffles bring, and the sight of snow outside.
Meanwhile, my family back in Spain has come to the rescue, sending me photos of our time together during Christmas, and I’ll make a selection for my next blog post. Yes, it is coming, as planned!
LENTIL AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Sopa de Lentejas con Calabaza
2 cups small brown lentils
1 butternut squash
1 poblano pepper, diced small
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
3 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (or Spanish paprika)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
In a wide platter, check the lentils for any small stones, and remove them. Rinse the lentils in a colander under cold running water. In a stock pot, combine the lentils and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (some kinds of lentils might take up to an hour to cook).
Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash (I microwave it for 2 minutes first, to soften the skin).
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a stock pot or heavy bottom casserole. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the onion and poblano pepper until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the butternut squash and sauté, 8 minutes. Add 2 Tbs of olive oil and the garlic and sauté, 2 minutes. Add the tomato and mix, cooking on low heat and stirring occasionally for about 8-10 minutes. Add the spices and mix.
In a skillet or small pan, sauté the chorizo for about 2 minutes and add to the casserole containing the vegetables.
When the lentils are tender, add them to the casserole containing the vegetables and chorizo (I usually pour part of the liquid, then use a ladle to pour the lentils, and continue to pour the liquid as needed or desired for the final soup thickness I want to achieve). Stir to mix well, adjust for salt, and cook on low heat for another 15-20 minutes to blend the flavors (don’t let it cook so much that the lentils start to break).
Ladle onto soup bowls and serve hot.