Is it really still winter? You would never know it by the sun shining outside on this beautiful morning. (Sorry my East Coast friends…) I’m still hoping for more than four days of rain before I will admit to Spring. Days are still short though,so there isl a chill to the air by dinnertime calling for hearty dishes to fill the belly. Winter vegetables like gorgeous butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are abundant and so delicious! Each one of these dishes is great on its own but combine them with lentils and you’ve got a winner.
I am pretty passionate about lentils. They come in many colors and sizes and I love them all. Brown and red lentils are great in soups and stews but my absolute favorite is the French green lentil (Le Puy) which is considered the top dog in the lentil world. Lentils are actually named for their lens shape (Lens culinaris) and green lentils maintain this shape when cooked which is why they don’t get mushy. Green lentils are delicious and can transform a salad or side dish into a protein packed meal. Lentils have the third highest amount of protein of any legume or nut (after soybeans and hemp) and contain dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, including iron. For this recipe I added roasted red pepper which gives the lentils a distinctive flavor. Roasting peppers is very easy but in a pinch you can also buy them in jars already roasted. They can be roasted in the oven on high heat, on your grill or over an open flame on your stove. I just put the whole pepper on the lowest rack in my oven while preheating it for the squash and turned it every 5 minutes or so to char on all four sides. Then let it cool in a paper bag and the skin slips off really easily. Tossing the lentils in vinaigrette is the final touch and gives you a chance to add fresh herbs and spices.
Butternut squash is another versatile and nutrient rich food. It can be roasted, mashed, stuffed, pureed and baked into muffins and casseroles. My favorite way to prepare squash is very simple, drizzled with olive oil and roasted with salt and pepper. Sometimes I splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over it before cooking to intensify the gorgeous orange color and bring out its natural sweetness.
My husband loves Brussels sprouts and I am always looking for new ways to prepare them. Right now they are in season so its a good time to add them into your diet if you haven’t already. Brussels sprouts are another food powerhouse, in the cruciferous family like broccoli and kale. They contain sulforaphane which is believed to have anticancer properties and indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair and is thought to block the growth of cancer cells. Boiling Brussels sprouts somewhat lessens their cancer fighting potency (probably the good stuff gets thrown out with the water) but roasting and sautéing does not. (Wikipedia) In this dish, I have paired them with sliced shallots, garlic and toasted pumpkin seeds for a tasty and pretty dish.
Warm Lentil Salad
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper or 4 oz jar roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 Tbsn red wine vinegar 1 tsp balsamic vinegar 1/2 tsp dry mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 2 Tbsn crumbled feta(optional)
Roasted Butternut Squash with Cumin and Balsamic
1 butternut squash
2 Tbsn olive oil
1-2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Shallot Saute