Lentil-Butternut Soup

October 29, 2007

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With farm markets full of winter squash, this is the perfect soup to make on a cold morning! The seeds and pulp from the butternut cooked in the steamer water add a burst of flavor. The polenta makes everything creamy and rich. Make it on Monday and you can enjoy it all week. SAM

1/2 cup dried Puy lentils or gray-green French lentils
5 1/2 cups cold water, divided
1 1/2 pounds onions (2 large), thinly sliced, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup marsala wine
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1/3 cup instant polenta
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan and chopped parsley

Pick through the lentils and rinse. Place in a stockpot with 1 1/2 cups of cold water and 1 thin slice of onion, cover, bring to a low boil, and simmer for 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, in a large, covered chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the remaining onions in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic after 15 minutes and continue cooking another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a 2-quart steamer pan over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the shallot and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Cut the squash in half and scrape the seeds and pulp into the steamer bottom with the shallot. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring, until fragrant and colorful, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Place the squash, cut-side down, in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until tender, about 20 minutes. Strain the steamer water, discarding seeds, fiber, and shallot, and reserve. Scrape the squash flesh into the onion mixture, along with the bay leaf. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté until reduced by 1/4, about 15 minutes. Add the marsala and reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and lentils along with any pot liquor.

In a small saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil 1 cup of lightly salted water. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return the pan to medium-low heat and whisk until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and stir into the squash-lentils mixture, along with the remaining 1 cup of water. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. Garnish with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.
Makes 2 quarts.

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