Whenever I start to rattle off the laundry list of my shortcomings, worrying that they have somehow destroyed the psyche of my husband and kids, a good friend has a saying guaranteed to halt the pity fest:
“You’ve already put a lot of good stuff in the soup. It’s already in the soup.”
What she means is that I have spent enough years simmering love, commitment and humor that I cannot possibly mess with my kids’ head. Here’s hoping.
Even if future psychiatric bills prove otherwise, the soup metaphor is a wonderful one, particularly when it comes to family. For instance, my mother was far from perfect. She struggled with her own demons –namely a dearth of confidence and clinical depression—which impacted us to some degree. Nevertheless, in my experience, her lifelong determination to cultivate the good far outweighed the bad, creating my family experience (aka the soup). Perhaps even the dash of bitterness Mom inadvertently added gave the soup that much more flavor and meaning.
Before I take this metaphor way, way too far, let’s get back to the main objective: Making soup. During her Weight Watchers days, Mom would whip up huge batches of Weight Watcher’s Vegetable Soup. She added mustard seeds and maybe curry powder, and served it with plain yogurt and pita bread. I thought it was awesome, and loved the fact that I could eat it for snack or lunch without guilt. (I’ve always been big into guilt.) I still make it every now and then.
The other day, however, I craved Mom’s veggie soup more from a conceptual standpoint than for flavor. I wanted soup available for lunch in my fridge, but one that tasted rich and creamy. Thus I returned to the beloved butternut squash, whose orange fleshy cubes caught my eye once more.
The trouble with butternut squash soup is that it’s not really a meal unto itself. Without protein or other veggies, you’ve got to add other components to the meal, such as a sandwich or salad. In lieu of other dishes, I put lentils and cauliflower directly into the soup.
Fearing a clash of flavor, I referred to some of my favorite corresponding recipes. Hence, I went back to Amy Bodiker’s Awesome Thai Butternut Squash Soup for inspiration. With curry permeating my taste buds, I remembered another winner from Epicurious.com: Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew. (I’m actually toying with pureeing this entire dish and calling it soup. Will keep you posted.)
After melding a few techniques from each recipe (as well as a few lentil soups too), I threw it all in the blender and tossed it with lite coconut milk.
The results were pretty spectacular. Although next time I would lay off the cinnamon. As I symbolically learned from Mom, too much sweetness can ruin a good soup. (The recipe below calls for less cinnamon.)
But the best thing about my Curried Butternut Lentil Cauliflower soup (pardon the German construction of its name) is that it embodies the phrase: “It’s all in the soup.” Now I have a visual to go with my mantra.
Let’s hope my kids don’t bring this blog to their shrinks someday.
‘IT’S IN THE SOUP’ SOUP
- 2 Tbsp, olive oil
- 1 ½ tsp minced shallots
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 cup red lentils, dry
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
- ½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 tsp curry
- 1 tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
- ¼ tsp red chili peppers
- 2 1/2 tsp salt, added gradually
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ can of lite coconut milk
- Place lentils in large pot and add about 1 Quart of hot water. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large pot, sautee shallots and garlic in 1 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat, until soft.
- Add butternut squash and let cook covered for about 15 minutes. As squash begins to soften, add cauliflower and additional oil.
- Add spices (curry, cumin, cinnamon, chili peppers and ½ of salt) and mix while it cooks.
- Once the “stir fry” begins to soften and the spices are well blended, add the lentils and water CAREFULLY!
- Simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils soften. Turn off heat and let cool for another 10.
- Transfer to a blender or Cuisinart, and puree. (NOTE: You may need to do this part in two shifts. If food processor gets too full, it will splatter. Not pretty)
- Once pureed, add coconut milk and remaining salt and pepper. Serve with croutons and parsley.
NOTE: If coconut is not your thing, try plain yogurt.