I think of all the seasons, I get most excited for fall… after weeks of being unable to turn on the oven – even dreading having a single burner on because it will turn the kitchen into a sweltering sauna – suddenly finding myself able to to roast or simmer or braise to my heart’s content comes as a relief. I love cooking with butternut squash and pumpkin again, warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, slow-cooking braises where the meat falls off the bone. There is nothing so satisfying and comforting as tucking into a big bowl of steamy, hearty soup on a chilly fall day.

This soup certainly fits the bill. It’s about as hearty and wholesome as they get – big chunks of colorful, tasty fall veggies, chock full of fiber- and protein-packed lentils, bursts of vitamin-rich spinach, all melding together in a flavorful, soothing broth. It’s perfect for fall. James and I have been enjoying the heck out it – the recipe makes a lot so we’re getting quite a few easy dinners out of the leftovers. After a long  hike yesterday up a mountain in central New Hampshire, it sure was nice to come home and heat up a couple of servings of this deliciousness.

The original recipe calls for just sweet potatoes, but I had half of a butternut squash already peeled in the fridge, leftover from another dish, so I chopped it up and threw that in as well. I think it’s a winning addition – I’m crazy for butternut squash – so I think I’ll add it to this soup from now on. Feel free to leave it out, or even substitute a different kind of winter squash… I’m think I’ll have to try pumpkin one of these days. Swiss chard, tough stems removed, could be substituted for the spinach. The original recipe also calls for vegetable broth, which would make this meal vegetarian, but I prefer the savory goodness of chicken broth.

Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Serves: 8 – 10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

4 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

3 cups water

2 cans (15 ounce) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and garlic is just barely starting to brown. Add carrot, celery, sweet potatoes, and squash. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften, about 6 – 9 minutes.
  2. Stir in the lentils, broth, and water. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook on medium-low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until lentils are cooked.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and stir. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves and serve.
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