It is finally starting to feel like Fall - the air is cool and crisp and the nights come sooner and sooner each day. When the weather starts to get cooler like it has been this past week, I crave piping hot bowls of soup to warm me up. The perfect comfort food.
My only reservation about soup is that is has to have some bulk. Some squash, potato, bean, sausage, something to give it a heartiness that won't leave me hungry. I guess what I should really say is that I prefer stew, but I like to mix it up a little.
Lucky for me, this time of year yields the perfect (and my favorite) ingredients for soup - squash, beans, kale, and dried or fresh herbs. This particular recipe is a combination of butternut squash, freshly dried white beans, and dried herbs. But you can pick and choose whatever flavors you like to make a similar soup or stew. I would have also added some chopped kale to this recipe if I had some to make it even more nutrient dense.
Currently at the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, it is easy to find a plethora of fresh shelling beans or dried beans, which can both be used in soups and stews. Stock up now and use them throughout the winter months. My favorite farms for dried or fresh beans are Shepherd's Farms, Hilltop Farms, McGrath Family Farms and Fairview Gardens. There are more varieties to choose from than you would ever imagine, and the farmers are very knowledgeable and able to offer advice on texture, flavor and consistency. Hilltop Farms even offers a handy one-sheet with various recipes that you can try.
If you have time, you can also make your own chicken stock. Your soups and stews will not only taste better, but they will be chock full of nutrition that the canned varieties cannot offer - like an old South American proverb once said - "good stock can raise the dead." If you are planning to make your own chicken stock for this recipe, I recommend picking up a pastured chicken from the farmers market. After you enjoy your chicken, you can reserve the bones and parts you don't eat for your stock.
white bean and butternut squash soup
2-3 small white onions, sliced thinly
2 tbsp butter, ghee, or other heat stable fat
1 medium butternut squash
1 cup dry navy beans
2-3 tbsp dried herbs
5 cups homemade chicken stock or water
Night before: place beans in a large bowl and cover with 4 cups water.
Strain and rinse beans. Place in large pot with stock and 2 cups of water. Simmer for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Strain beans, but reserve stock.
While beans are cooking, saute onions and herbs in a generous spoonful of fat over medium-low heat in a deep, heavy pot for about 15 minutes, or until translucent and tender.
Peel butternut squash and cut into 1/2" cubes. Add to onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
Add stock to squash and onion mixture. Simmer until squash is tender. Add beans and continue to cook on low simmer until squash is very soft and has creamy texture.
Season with sea salt and serve.