Coming up with new recipes during the summer can be a challenge. I don’t have much of an appetite during the summer, so it’s hard for me to figure out what, if anything, would be appetizing. Other than coconut milk ice cream, of course 🙂
So when I’m stumped for recipe ideas, I ask myself these questions:
1) What’s in season, fresh, and available? To answer this question, I stop at the first thing that comes to mind. For this recipe, that thing was summer squash.
2) Which foods can I pair this with to maximize nutritional value? For me, the simplest way to figure out if a meal will be nutritious and filling is to ensure that it has enough protein and fiber. So I added baby kale and lentils to the mix. Obviously there are many more components to complete nutrition than protein and fiber, but I focus on those two for simplicity’s sake.
3) How do I make this weather and/or occasion appropriate? Obviously a stew would be too heavy for a summer dish, so I decided against adding heartier elements like potatoes or other root vegetables. I decided a soup would be ideal, because it’s not as heavy. Plus, this week will be very busy for me, so I wanted something that I could make a lot of and keep in the fridge for leftover lunches and dinners.
4) What ingredients do I add to make this delicious? This is the fun part! If I’m using ingredients I’ve never cooked with before (or if I’m in a creative rut), I consult one of my new favorite books, The Flavor Bible. It has a huge database of almost every food you can think of, with lists of recommended pairings. For this dish, I relied not on The Flavor Bible, but rather on my previous experience with lentil soups, summer squash, and kale. I rounded out the recipe with diced tomatoes, vegan chicken broth (yes, such a thing exists…click here for more info), garlic, onion, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaves.
If you follow that formula, it’s relatively easy to come up with new and original recipe ideas.
Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t visit my blog to hear me ramble on about how to come up with a recipe. So let’s get to the soup.
Summer Squash and Lentil Soup
Serves 4-6 (as a main)
Prep Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
2 C dry green or French lentils
2 small summer squash of your choice (I used yellow straight neck squash and zucchini squash), sliced thin
6 C vegan chicken broth
3 C packed baby kale (or regular kale, with stems removed and leaves chopped)
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Juice from 1/2 large lemon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1) Add 1/2 C broth to a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heated to medium-high. Add onions and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.
2) Add summer squash, and cook for about 3 more minutes. Wilt in baby kale, then add thyme, tomatoes, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Cook for about 2 more minutes.
3) Add lentils and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour. Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and thyme garnish.