Soup Is Good Food


I was warned about this.

They tried to tell me, they really did. They gave me the pamphlets and the booklets and folders filled with information and helpful hints. You can’t say I wasn’t warned.

But, no. Not me, no way, no how. I was going to play by the rules and this determined, feisty cancer patient was going to do everything she was told to do, which was pretty unlike the determined, feisty person I was before the cancer.

And it happened anyway. The dreaded dry mouth, a perfectly common side effect of radiation treatment.

I feel like I’ve been gnawing on a salt lick or licking the inside of a potato chip bag. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but you can safely assume that your appetite flies out the window. Mine is somewhere over the Schuylkill River right now.

So because of that, the menu is a bit limited these days. Smoothies and milkshakes, egg and tuna salads, soups. Ice cream, tapioca, rice pudding. It’s all easy to eat with lots of protein. A little too much sugar but oh, well. I really don’t want to kick cancer in the ass and end up as a diabetic, but I don’t think that’ll happen in the next month or so. At least I hope not. Touch wood and all of that.

I made this red lentil butternut squash soup over the weekend. It comes from the fabulous Anna Thomas (she of the Vegetarian Epicure books) and if you’re a fan of soups, Love Soup is one for your cookbook shelf. Some of her recipes are a little time consuming and you’ll definitely be multi-tasking but there’s not a recipe in here that’s too fussy or difficult to make.

Bite me, Campbell's.

Bite me, Campbell’s.

I made this even less un-fussy by using a whole butternut squash instead of a smaller one and a sweet potato. First of all, it was the smallest squash the market had and secondly, I couldn’t be arsed to peel a potato.

And it was the same thing with the cumin. Anna calls for toasted and ground whole cumin seeds, but a freshly opened jar of ground cumin will do just fine. And since this has Indian undertones to begin with, this might be fabulous with a little tandoori or garam masala instead. Next time.

Red Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 generous cup of red lentils
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • Butternut squash, about 2 ½ lbs (smaller ones are easier to cut in half!)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • ¼ – ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 4 – 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 -3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice to taste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
  2. Rinse the lentils and combine them in a soup pot with 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and boil gently for about 20 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. The lentils will change from red to gold. Surprise!
  3. While the lentils simmer, cut the squash in half from end-to-end. Seed it, and put the squash, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Stick it in the oven and roast it for about 45 minutes or so. It’ll be nice and soft.
  4. At the same time, heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add the onions with a big pinch of salt, give it a good stir and let them cook down until they’re golden and soft, about 20 to 30 minutes or so.
  5. When the lentils are just tender, add the onions, ginger, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes and 4 cups of the vegetable broth.
  6. Bring it to a simmer. Scoop the squash out of its skin and add it to the soup. Give it a good stir, put the lid on and let it cook for about 20 minutes or so.
  7. If it looks too thick, add the remaining broth.
  8. You can either serve it as is (very rustic!) or puree it, which is what I did since my ginger wasn’t minced all that finely.
  9. Season it to taste. Some sour cream or Greek yogurt on top is awfully good.
  10. Enjoy!

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