Happy 2016! I’m so excited about blogging again, after my one week hiatus, that I can barely sit still as I write this post. It turns out that I love this blog; it’s become an integral part of my life and I want to thank each and every one of my readers for being a part of this journey with me.
And now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, let’s have a candid discussion about this butternut squash and red lentil curry. You guys, I was expecting this dish to be just okay. I thought I’d have to tinker with the spices and make it a few more times before I posted the recipe but it was fantabulous on the first try. I want to eat it by the spoonfuls. Okay, okay, who am I kidding?! I DID eat a spoonful…
…or ten in the process…
It’s a perfect harmony of sweet and fiery, in all it’s creamy glory. The butternut squash simmers with the red lentils and melts away to this ribbon of sweetness as it laces its way through the lentils, and infuses itself with the aromatic spices to create the most ah-mazingly rich curry. I have leftovers in the fridge and I’m already thinking about when I’m going to make it again. That’s how much I love it.
That, and I stockpiled pretty much all of the butternut squash at Trader Joe’s this past fall. Guys, I’m not kidding, I have bags and bags and bags and bags…well, you get the point…of butternut squash in my freezer. I think I have a real problem.
With my endless supply of butternut squash and recent obsession, I have posted so many butternut squash recipes, like my caramelized butternut squash and onion with goat cheese pizza (which, by the way, I just found out was posted on foodgawker!) And of course, there is the roasted butternut squash and chicken sausage lasagna.
My love for all things butternut squash runs so deep that I’m always trying to find new ways to incorporate it into more dishes (plus, remember, I hoarded all the butternut squash from Trader Joe’s?!). Did I mention that I just got back from a week long vacation in balmy Florida, the land of sunshine and beaches year round, to the bone-chilling tundra of Chicago? Winter is indeed upon us and I’m still cringing thinking about the -16 degree wind chill we saw yesterday. Brrrrrr!
And, as I’m watching big, fat, fluffy, snowflakes fall while I write this post, I want comfort food. Simple, filling, warm-my-soul kind of deliciousness in a bowl. When I mean simple, I really mean the Indian essential of simple: lentils. I’m a daal chaawal (lentils and rice) kinda girl– it’s the way to my heart, hands down! Enter the butternut squash and red lentil curry.
But first, I have a confession to make. Growing up, my mom would make dal A LOT and I hated it. My love affair with lentil, sadly started off on very, very shaky grounds. I had this inexplicable, deep-rooted hatred for lentils and I felt like my mom would channel that and cook it just to tick me off. I would have rather skipped the meal than be forced to eat lentils.
That was then and this is now, where lentils and I enjoy a fiber and protein filled life together. But this happened later in life. I mean WAAAAYYY later on, like after I had my first apartment and I realized how easy they are to cook, as well as a cheap source of protein.
I’m going to tell you right now, you don’t want to skip the lemon. The tartness from the lemon really highlights the sweetness from the squash but also tames the heat. So seriously, DON’T SKIP THE LEMON! And if you can, use fresh lemons. I love the way fresh lemons have this bright burst of flavor and command attention.
They’re very much like my three-year-old in that way…intense and demanding…
I ate this with brown basmati rice because I’m a grown-up and grown-ups who have made a resolution to eat better are supposed to eat brown rice. At least that’s what I tell myself. I actually DO like the taste of brown basmati rice but serve it with any rice you want. OR a crusty bread/chappati. Or you can be a rebel, cut the carbs and eat it by itself but my love for carbs knows no bounds and I have to have it with rice, albeit brown rice. Just remember, squeeze that lemon wedge on top!
- 2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 12 oz butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 3 cups water
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (olive or coconut oil works too)
- 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 2–4 curry leaves (optional)
- 2 tsp salt
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
- lemon wedges for garish and serving
- 2 tbsp additional chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Heat oil in a pot at medium heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds* and toast until the cumin seeds become dark brown. Add in chopped and saute until onions become soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and grated ginger and stir until the garlic and ginger become fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add garam masala and cook for 30 seconds, until toasted. Add in tomato, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, and coriander powder. Cook until tomatoes melt into the mixture and the oil starts to separate from the rest of the mixture, about 3-5 minutes. Add curry leaves, if desired.
- Add butternut squash and saute to combine with the tomato-onion mixture. Stir in lentils and slowly add water, 1 cup at a time. Turn heat down to low and simmer, cover the pot and let it cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and squash has dissolved into the lentils.
- Take off heat and stir in lemon juice and 3 tbsp cilantro.
- Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with remaining cilantro, if desired. Serve with rice and/or crusty bread/chappati.
*the seeds will splatter so use a splatter screen if necessary or cover with a lid, leaving room for the heat and steam to escape