Butternut squash & de puy lentils

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A few weekends ago, I had a beautiful menu planned for a winter, birthday dinner. It was going to be an OJ-brined and roasted pasture-raised duck, Spanish-style de puy lentils, and roasted squash with browned butter and hazelnuts. Sounds good right? Oh, and I had a beautiful pinot noir which I JUST got in from Napa Valley.

Unfortunately, the circumstances changed and I had a bunch of prepped vegetables and lentils which I couldn’t serve as part of this meal. So instead, I just made the two sides.

The squash and the lentil recipe are both from America’s Test Kitchen. I followed the squash recipe to just about a tee, but the lentils I modified to be a side dish instead of a stew prepared with sausage.

Together, the squash and lentils were delicious. I loved the hazelnut topping for the squash. It was citrusy, nutty and broke up the sweet squash. My most favorite part of the lentils was adding the smoked paprika tarka at the end.

I’m stilling learning about Indian cooking, and yes, this dish was suppose to be Spanish, but this technique is borrowed from Indian cuisine. Tarka is blooming spices in hot oil to bring out the flavor. This can be done in beginning of a dish, or at the end and added as a garnish. My smoked paprika garnish was SO SO fragrant! I couldn’t even tell there was no chorizo sausage in my lentils!!!

It turned out that creating a tarka or a tadka (or a baghaar or chownk) is a technique I previously discovered while making a lentil soup. I was really curious then and am really happy I was able to come across and apply the technique again. It’s actually something I’ve done before while making curries.

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