Meatless dinner series: week three

First lentils, then tofu, now chickpeas: This creamy soup rounds out our plant-protein trifecta.

Introducing our alternative-protein Meatless Dinnerseries. For those of us who are suffering from chicken and salmon fatigue, Lauren Blake, R.D., proposes a series of flavorful and filling main dishes that supply a healthy dose of protein from more surprising sources. In week one, we prepared Moroccan-Spiced Lentil Stuffed Peppers; our follow-up was a homemade take on takeout, Sesame-Crusted Tofu With Greens and Thai Peanut Sauce. Below, our third and final installment:

If you’ve never worked with squash before, it’s surprisingly versatile and forgiving (for one, it’s difficult to overcook). The catch is that a lot of squash recipes are laden with butter and heavy cream, which undoes the fact that it’s a very healthy vegetable; for example, the butternut variety is only 80 calories per cup and has half your day’s dose of vitamin C. Here’s the hack for this hearty vegan dish: a cashew cream that gives the dish great body and healthy fat. Plus, hidden in the bisque are chickpeas, a great way to get protein, especially if you’re tired of hummus. Serve alongside crunchy seed crackers, or crumble them on top to replace croutons.

Butternut Squash Chickpea Bisque
Serves 4

For the bisque:
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 large carrots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups diced butternut squash
6 cups vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup raw cashews

For the crackers:
½ cup chia seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pepita seeds
2 medium finely-grated garlic cloves
2 tablespoons almond flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 sprig rosemary, stemmed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Bisque:In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil. Cook carrots, onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until carrots begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add squash, broth and chickpeas, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until squash is fork-tender, 20 minutes. In a blender, blend cashews and 1/3 cup water, adding water if necessary, until mixture is creamy; set aside. Transfer soup to blender and blend until smooth, then return to pot and stir in cashew cream, reserving 2 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper and serve topped with a dollop of cashew cream and drizzle of olive oil. Crackers: Heat oven to 325°. In a bowl, whisk together seeds, garlic, flour, onion powder, rosemary, thyme and salt; add 1 cup water and stir with a wooden spoon until water is incorporated. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, press seed mixture to ¼-inch thickness. Bake for 30 minutes, cut into pieces, flip and continue baking, 25 minutes. Cool and serve.

Recipe by Lauren Blake, RD

Moroccan-Spiced Lentil Stuffed Peppers
Sesame-Crusted Tofu with Greens and Thai Peanut Sauce