Red Lentil and Winter Squash Bisque

This past week, The Montana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics held their annual conference. Dietitians from across the state got together to participate in a series of continuing education lectures.

One of the lectures focused on lentils. Did you know that Montana is the top lentil producer in the country? Lentils are local, cheap and considered both a protein and vegetable by the USDA. They are a nutrition powerhouse with 36% more antioxidant capabilities than blueberries! They are also a great source of fiber, folate, potassium, iron, and zinc.

Below is one of the recipes they prepared for the audience to taste. It was delicious!

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Bisque
Makes 6, 1 cup servings

Ingredients:
1 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds scooped out
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion
1 Tbsp Thai red chili paste (Sambal)
4 cups vegetable stock (low-sodium)
1 cup red lentils (may soak ahead of time for 8-12 hours in the fridge)
1 cup canned coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish
juice of one lime

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with a teaspoon of olive oil.
3. Place the acorn squash flesh side down on the foil. Bake until tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the squash.
4. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Peel off the skin and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the flesh for the soup.
5. In a saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and onion. Saute for 5-7 minutes or until they are soft. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
6. Add thai red chili paste, sauté for 1-2 minutes.
7. Add the stock and the lentils. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are cooked about 20-30 minutes.
8. Add the squash to the soup. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Using a hand blender (may also add to a regular blender), puree the soup until smooth.
9. Add the coconut milk.
10. Serve in warm bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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