Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)

photo of kabocha squash-red lentil curry in white bowl on purple placemat on the dinner table

Community cookoffs are a delicious way to bring people together!

It’s almost time again for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA) Annual Community Cookoff! This year’s theme is “Oodles of Noodles” and will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2018 from 2-4 pm at the Brew & Brew. It will be a celebration of carbs and the recipes of many chefs working hard to please your palate!

This year’s cookoff motivated me to post about last year’s AFBA 2017 Collossal Curry Cookoff. As a brand new member of the AFBA, I decided to enter my Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry in the cookoff. I was a bit scared, but I thought it would be a good way to meet my fellow AFBA members and showcase the type of food that I cook.

Curries don’t have to be hot to be flavorful, aromatic, and delicious!

I was excited for people to try my vegan curry which was not at all hot and spicy. I wanted to make the curry flavorful (with sweet kabocha squash, fennel, sweet potato, and curry leaves) and spicy rather than hot (with ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon). I also used red lentils to give the curry great body, flavor, and texture. Yum!

fresh ginger and bowl of spices for Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry

Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)
 
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Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup carrot, finely diced
  • ½ cup celery, finely diced
  • 2 fronds fresh curry leaves, chiffonade or 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup sweet potato, small dice
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, small dice
  • 2 cups kabocha or butternut squash, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 teaspoon tamari, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar, or to taste (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  • lemon or lime wedges, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse red lentils several times and soak in a bowl with water for about an hour.
  2. Heat heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium heat. When hot, add coconut oil, onion, and pinch of sea salt. Sauté on medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, curry leaves or bay leaf, ginger, and garlic and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir in powdered spices.
  4. Add the chopped sweet potato, fennel, squash, zucchini, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 4 minutes.
  5. Drain red lentils and add them to the vegetable sauté. Add water, bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer until lentils and vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in coconut milk. Season with tamari and ume vinegar (or sea salt). Heat until simmering.
  7. Add fresh herbs and turn off heat.
  8. Serve on top of rice with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

3rd place finish!

After a few hours of curry tasting and ballot casting, I was thrilled to get a 3rd place finish, and went home with various gift cards and goodies from local businesses. It ended up being such a fun day!

I hope you’ll try making this recipe when you are in the mood for something sweet, savory, and nourishing. It is delicious with basmati rice and a crisp green side salad. I also add baby spinach when warming up leftovers to give it some freshness.

Sign up for this year’s cookoff!

And by the way, get your tickets here for the 2018 AFBA Oodles of Noodles cookoff on September 23rd. It will be an experience to remember!

Please let me know if you’d like to chat about on-demand cooking lessons, corporate team building, dinner parties, or yoga retreat catering.

Fresh Arugula and Fig Salad with Citrus Dressing and Marcona Almonds

salad with fresh figs, avocado, marcona almonds

Mmmm… fresh figs! Late summer and early fall is the height of fig season. Right now in Austin, the grocery stores have been fully stocked with varieties of figs from California that range in color from dark purple to bright green on the outside, to various shades of pink on the inside. They are best when heavy, plump, unblemished, and slightly soft on the outside. Figs that are squishy are probably overripe. Check out this article to learn more about how to choose figs.

Varieties of ripe figs
Varieties of ripe figs. Photo Credit: Photo © Patrizia Savarese/Getty Images

In this recipe, I have chosen to marinate the fennel in citrus, olive oil, and salt before adding it to the salad. This slightly softens the fennel and makes it more flavorful. Fennel bulbs are easy to slice if you first trim the stems and fronds from the bulb, cut into quarters, and then thinly slice each quarter. If the stems are juicy and flavorful, they can also be thinly sliced and added to the marinade.

FennelTrim fennel root and stems. Cut in half.

fennel- quarteredCut each half in half.

Fennel-4Slice off the hard core from each fennel quarter. Slice thinly.

I recommend using a good quality, aged balsamic vinegar that is less acidic and slightly sweet. I used the Central Market brand Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena from Italy for this recipe. It costs about $16 and can be bought online or in the Austin Central Market stores.

balsamic vinegar

I used a tangerine-infused olive oil from Vom Faas specialty store. You can sub a good quality extra virgin olive oil if you can’t find this ingredient.

Be creative and try substituting ingredients that are seasonal in your area. For example, as winter approaches, pomegranates will be in season and can be used instead of figs. Mango can be used in place of oranges, celery for fennel, and toasted pecans for almonds.

Fresh Arugula and Fig Salad with Citrus Dressing and Marcona Almonds
 
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Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 small or ½ large fresh fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups mixed field greens with baby arugula
  • up to 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • up to 2 tablespoons citrus-infused olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 fresh figs, sliced in quarters
  • 1 small avocado, cut into chunks
  • slices of 1 orange or 2 clementines
  • ¼ cup Marcona almonds (toasted and salted)
  • black pepper, freshly ground (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together fennel, orange juice, olive oil, and sea salt. Allow fennel to marinate for at least 20 minutes. This step can also be done up to one day ahead, storing the fennel mixture covered in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the salad.
  2. Rinse and spin dry mixed greens. Spread evenly onto large platter or into large salad bowl.
  3. Drizzle greens with balsamic vinegar and citrus-infused olive oil. Top greens with marinated fennel, figs, avocado, orange or clementine slices, and Marcona almonds.
  4. Top with a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
Variation
  1. Use mango chunks in place of orange slices.

Salad at Sami & Lorraines (3)

Bon appetit!

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup

Spring is the perfect time in Central Texas to get farm fresh fennel and carrots. I couldn’t resist making this simple soup today for a client when I saw the big bulbs of fennel at the market. The flavors are much sweeter and complex due to the roasting of the carrots and fennel prior to adding them to the soup. Reserve fennel stems and core for juicing, if you wish.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup
 
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Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound organic carrots
  • 1 large organic fennel bulb
  • 3 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup diced organic yellow onion
  • 4-6 cups light vegetable stock (no-tomato)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash carrots and trim off the ends. Slice carrots into ½-inch diagonals. Place in a large glass baking dish or roasting pan.
  3. Wash fennel and trim off stems and fronds, reserving a few fronds for garnishing. Slice fennel bulb into quarters, cut out the core, and discard the core. Slice remaining fennel bulb into ½-inch slices and add to carrots in baking dish.
  4. Toss carrots and fennel with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Cover baking dish with foil and roast for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and are beginning to brown slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, saute onion, a pinch of sea salt, and remaining tablespoon of olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
  6. Add roasted carrots and fennel to soup pot and saute a minute more.
  7. Add 4 cups vegetable stock, or enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes.
  8. Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more stock as needed to achieve the consistency you like. It is important not to add too much liquid initially as it will be difficult to achieve a smooth texture.
  9. Season with sea salt and simmer gently for 10 minutes more.
  10. Serve warm or chilled in individual bowls with a few fennel fronds for garnish.