10.07.2010

Squash and White Bean Soup

The other day overnight frost was predicted and as I glanced out at my basil wondering if she'd make it through the night, I began craving soup. Those of you who live in Chicago, or the Midwest, might know the old saying, "Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes." High 70s were predicted for the weekend. If I was going to get my crispy fall day soup moment in, I needed to act fast. I put squash on my grocery list and got a move on.

Upon it's Ferniegirl debut a few years back, this soup was served to people other than my immediate family (I simply cannot say company) and a 13 year-old gobbled it down, I assure you not to be polite. Not bad for this former soup-from-a-can-only girl.

The highlight of this soup is the low effort, high quality result ratio. Impressing others is gravy. Makes a ton, well not an actual ton, but enough to get you through a week of cold noses and feet.

Check out Real Simple for the original recipe. My changes are slight.

Recipe

In a big pot (I use an 8 qt. stainless steel pot, but a little smaller will do) pour:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat the oil over medium to high until pretty hot. The oil almost starts to look thinner when it's ready. If you see tiny bubbles forming, turn down the heat a little.  Takes 3-4 minutes.

Then add:
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped into 1 inch pieces

For those of you who know what you're doing, cook, stirring often, until translucent, 5-6 minutes, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. For those of you who are me 10 years ago, read The Israeli and the Onion, A Very Short Story, to learn how a 26 year old Israeli man taught me to cook an onion. (See how the know-it-alls miss out on the good stuff?)

Then add:
  • 14 oz. canned diced tomatoes* with juices

Turn heat down and simmer, stirring here and there, about 3 minutes until the liquid boils off a bit. When the onions look meshed with the tomatoes, stir in:
  • 4 cups (about 1 ½ lbs.) butternut squash* cut into ½ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 5 cups chicken stock or broth(reserve extra for later reheating)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt (I use less because I'd rather add more later if need be, also reduce salt if using regular sodium broth)
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Bring to boil and reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes until squash is fork tender. Taste every few minutes so squash doesn't get mushy. I like to err on the undercooked side. Makes for better leftovers.

Stir in:
  • 15 oz. cannellini or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups kale* (de-ribbed and torn), or shortcut it: box of mixed hearty greens (kale, spinach, chard) or box of baby spinach, if your grocery store carries these

Cook until greens are wilted and beans heated through, about two minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan Reggiano*.

**Extra! Extra!**
  • Tomatoes: forget buying crushed, diced or whole tomatoes. Keep at least four, 16 oz. cans of whole ones in your house and use them for everything. I think they are more flavorful than the others anyway. If you need crushed, crush them with a potato masher or a fork in a separate bowl. Diced, quickly chop them in a bowl with the juices. I buy Carmelina, Bella Terra, Muir Glen.
  • Buy fresh squash in produce section, not the frozen kind. Do not I repeat do not attempt to cut and peel a whole butternut squash, at least not until you no longer read this blog. I almost cut off my hand the first time I tried this. Take no chances, splurge on the safe stuff. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods both carry cut up squash in the produce section.
  • Imagine brand broths are my fave, followed by Pacific. I usually use "low sodium" variety. If regular is all I have, I cut way back on salt in recipe.
  • Kale is delicious and has more texture so it holds up better than spinach, but it takes time. You need to wash it in a water bath to remove all the dirt in it's crevices, tear the greens from the ribs, then chop. When I was a CSA member and kale was in my box, I called Gayle for kale guidance and she told me, "You must tear the leaves from the ribs! Don't forget about that part! Oh, and it's dirty, but dirt is good!" Baby spinach from a bag is a quick rinse away from ready, so lately that's what I've done. Whatever floats your root beer.
  • Parmesan Reggiano: the good kind you grate yourself. As far as we're concerned, you have never even heard of the stuff in the green can.

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