Curried Lentils and Butternut Squash

lentils, butternut squash, winter squash

I’m highly considering starting a Post-It Note habit. As much as I’d like to think my brain is sharp as a tack, I’m finally ready accept that it it just can’t permanently record all the little reminders I need to help me through life as fast as I think of them. My Post-It Notes would have reminders like:

“Put your wet clothes in the dryer before they get all damp and stinky” (too late)

“Mail your cousin that DVD full of cute pictures you took at her son’s birthday party” (despite the fact that I drive by a blue mailbox every day 1/4 mile from my house)

And, “you don’t have to be rockstar every night of the week, making something completely new and different, when there’s almost five year’s worth of recipes you really liked eating sitting right here.” (you could scramble some eggs with whatever flavor of chicken sausage happens to be in the freezer and something half-moldy from the cheese drawer, and he’d still think you’re a rockstar.)


Besides the fact that I get to eat really good food without having to think too much about it, there are other reasons for “eating off the blog,” as we like to call it: the chance to share a recipe I really love with newer readers who would probably never see it otherwise (unless you particularly enjoy stalking my recipe index) and the opportunity to make it look prettier. Yeah, yeah. We all tell ourselves that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but we’re all a little vain too. Me, personally, I think that delicious food deserves to look as good as it tastes. I spent a lot of time creating it, and I think it deserves just as much attention in the plating, lighting, and focus department.
Which brings me to a few tips I turn to when it comes to photographing food that’s less than strikingly gorgeous.  Basically your casseroles, stews, and anything brown and mushy, like this Curried Butternut Squash and Lentils.
First, remind yourself what I just told you: time and effort were spent thinking about and creating the dish, and others aren’t going to know that if you don’t put a little thought into creating the visual image. Unfortunate, perhaps, but there’s no getting around it.
Second, think about what you can do to make the picture interesting. This is when I like to bring out the pretty plates and bowls, something to add a punch of color.
Next, garnish, garnish, garnish! No, don’t go crazy like I did here. I think all that coconut, almonds and cilantro is a wee bit too much. But do put something there. A little green goes a long way.
Finally, think about focus. This is not the time to practice your bokeh (that’s the technical term for part of a picture left deliberately blurry.) Mushy, monochromatic food is not going to look any better if you allow just a small piece of the picture in focus; rather, the blurry part is just going to look more mushy and bland. Trust me on this one.


I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I can take a little pride in how my skills have progressed in the three years since I originally made this dish. However, some things, like the hearty, delicious qualities in this bowl of vegetable-based comfort food are better left unchanged. Fortunately, that all remains in tact.

Go ahead and check out the recipe for Curried Lentils and Butternut Squash, as I made it in 2008 and am still enjoying it now.

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12 Responses to “Curried Lentils and Butternut Squash”

  1. 1

    amanda — November 5, 2011 @ 1:07 pm Reply

    I think the garnish looks awesome! No such thing as too much coconut and cilantro! 😛 I doubt my husband would eat this but it looks SO good – I need to try it when he's out of town sometime.

  2. 2

    Emily — November 5, 2011 @ 4:13 pm Reply

    Looks great – no need to reinvent the wheel here! I often have to remind myself that it's ok to eat something simply and tried and true even if it means it won't make the blog!

  3. 3

    Alissa - Not Just Apples — November 5, 2011 @ 5:08 pm Reply

    This looks fantastic! We've been making lots of squash/pumpkin lentil mixes lately – very tasty and nutritious, especially with spinach or kale thrown in 🙂

  4. 4

    Lauren — November 5, 2011 @ 8:07 pm Reply

    I have to make this asap – it's full of some of my favorite ingredients and flavors! I love the background in these photos… is it a table or something you constructed? I've been wanting to make a few of those DIY rustic wooden backdrops ;). 

  5. 5 — November 5, 2011 @ 9:22 pm Reply

    I love your photography tips! Keep 'em coming! And you hid the brown mushiness very well 🙂

  6. 6

    Kate — November 6, 2011 @ 8:53 am Reply

    I always think your pictures are gorgeous, even the awful ones!

  7. 7

    Ricki — November 6, 2011 @ 1:51 pm Reply

    Well that's a totally gorgeous photo–AND the recipe sounds delicious.  I love it, "eating off the blog". I should do that sometimes, too–I hate losing all those wonderful recipes because I'm too busy cooking "new" food!

  8. 8

    Joanne — November 7, 2011 @ 5:13 am Reply

    I've come to learn that the most mushy food is usually the most delicious…especially when it involves butternut squash and curry!  These photos are totally gorgeous.  I can see why that boy of yours thinks you're a total rockstar. 😛

  9. 9

    Wonder of my World — November 15, 2011 @ 3:04 pm Reply

    this is so nice post i like this a lot.http:// Good food and drinks of our world http:// Wonder of my World http:// Physical therapy Blogspot

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