It’s fall here in Uruguay, which is a strange thing for a North American couple – leaves turning yellow in April. As temperatures drop from the scorching days of our summer in Buenos Aires, and cool autumn breezes invite sweatshirts back to our regular attire, our meals have shifted too. We had great success with a scrumptious white bean soup and decided to stick with the warm bowl shtick while toying around with a new ingredient that we’d never cooked with before. Calabazas (pronounced: cah-lah-bahs-as, translated: calabashes or gourds) have been everywhere in the Americas, but for some reason stood out to us more prominently here, perhaps because they’re relatively inexpensive compared to the other produce options. One Sunday, after a bit of light reading about the plant, Ian started experimenting in the kitchen, and the result was an absolutely delectable, nutrient dense delight that we ate for lunch all week with rice (Ian) or toast (Brianna) and decided to cook up again the next weekend. To be honest, the finished product looks kind of like a pot of sludge, but the appearance is deceiving and can be spruced up with a small garnish. You really must try this delicious dish. Without further ado, here is the recipe for Ian’s Sopa Calabaza Lentaje (Calabash Lentil Soup).
3 large red onions
3.5 cups dry lentils
3 tbsp garlic, minced or powder
3 tbsp paprika
5 tbsp red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
1. Peel, gut, and cube calabazas.
2. Cut onions into your favorite onion shape. Ours is rings. Note: For the batch in the photos, we used 6 medium white onions instead of the 3 large red ones due the fact that cebollas rojas were curiously missing from every store in our town that day.
3. Sauté the onions in oil with 2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes until they are translucent and just beginning to brown around the edges.
4. Add the calabaza cubes and fill with hot water to just above the onions and cubes so that they are all covered.
5. Bring to a boil and leave at a boil until the calabaza cubes are soft enough to mash, approximately twenty minutes.
6. Mash the calabaza cubes. If you have a blender or, better yet, an immersion blender, those would probably be handy to use to liquify the cubes, but we don’t have those, so our recipe calls for good old fashion mashing.
7. Add dry lentils and 7 cups of water to the calabaza mash along with the garlic powder, paprika, and remaining 3 tablespoons of red pepper flakes. Feel free to adjust the lentil amount up or down here based on your preferences (3 cups of lentils get 6 cups of water and 4 cups of lentils get 8).
8. Bring back to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down and let simmer for 1 hour, lid cracked, stirring occasionally.
9. Mash or blend lentils to desired consistency.
10. Season to taste. Garnish with cilantro or arugula. Serve with toast.
Note: We think that a variation including coconut milk and curry over jasmine rice would be fantastic, but we haven’t been able to find coconut milk since creating the recipe, so let us know if you try it out!