Thai Pumpkin Soup

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised
3 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Kosher salt
One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Thinly sliced Fresno chile, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and broth, stirring to incorporate, then season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice and let cool for 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender in the pot) and puree until smooth. If needed, add additional water or broth to reach the desired consistency. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Serve warm and garnish with fresh cilantro and thinly sliced Fresno chiles.

Like most soups, this one is even better made the day before. Reheat before serving.

Basic Lentils (or Beans) with Sautéed Onions

Basic Recipe:
Cook 1 pound of beans or lentils in water with a bay leaf. (If you’re cooking lentils, add one peeled, cubed potato to the pot.) Add salt when they begin to soften.

Thinly slice an entire yellow onion and saute over low heat in lots of olive oil until soft and reduced, about 20 minutes. You can also cut in some butter if you like. A clove of garlic would be welcome, too.

Just before serving, add an herb or spice (or a spice mix) to the cooked onions.

Gently add the onion mix to the beans or lentils, and cook for 5 minutes, then transfer to a dish and serve. Not making this a one-pot meal means the flavors stay sharp and distinct.

Variations/Specialties

Lentils with Spiced Onions
Follow the cooking instructions above. Lentils cook in about 20 minutes, unsoaked. A cubed potato will cook in about the same time and potatoes add some body to a pot of lentils. To the onions, add a spoonful of the Moroccan spice blend Ras al Hanout.

Royal Coronas with Onions and Sage

Follow the cooking instructions above. Instead of Ras al Hanout, chop two sprigs of fresh sage and add it to the onions. For a pound, the two sprigs were perfect. It was a lot of sage, but a pound of beans makes over six cups. I think too much sage would ruin things, but you do want the flavor.