White Bean & Autumn Squash Soup
Canned beans are such an important staple for many of us, including our family from time to time. But stay with me here while I speak the gospel on using dried beans. Dried beans are cheap, offer abundant variety beyond the familiar, and have far more character in flavor and texture than canned beans. If you can find some time on the weekend, or put to work the pressure cooker or crockpot, it really is well worth the effort. And this is a chef note, but when the bean in question is a recipe feature, in a recipe that has so few ingredients, it should be as quality as is possible.
1 cup of dried white beans (for instance, cannellini or navy)
OR two 14 oz. cans of white beans
Kosher or sea salt and black pepper
2 yellow onions
1-2 tablespoons of a cool-weather herb (such as parsley, thyme, sage, or rosemary; alone or in combination. If using dried herbs, just cut the amount in half)
Medium-sized autumn/winter squash (refer to notes and variations)
Chicken stock, optional
Refer to notes and variations
The Night Before
Add 1 cup of dried white beans (for instance, cannellini or navy; look below for using canned beans) to a large bowl, covered by 2 inches of fresh water. Let that rest overnight. (A tip: you can always double, or triple, the amount of beans this recipe asks for, and freeze the remaining beans in their liquid to use for future recipes.)
If you are using canned beans, you can skip to the next paragraph. When you’re ready to cook the next day, drain the beans, add them to a large saucepan or pot, cover again with fresh water by 2-3 inches, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, for at least 45 minutes, or until just tender, skimming off any scum that develops with a spoon. Towards the end of cooking, add a good pinch of kosher or sea salt.
Slice thinly 2 yellow onions by cutting them in half lengthwise, removing the skin, and slicing into half-moons. Finely chop 1-2 tablespoons of a fresh cool-weather herb (such as parsley, thyme, sage, or rosemary; alone or in combination. If using dried herbs instead, just cut the amount in half). Put your favorite soup pot on a medium heat, and when it is warm add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add your onion, half of your herbs, toss and cover with a lid, allowing your base to sweat and break down completely. (Make sure that your onion isn’t browning too quickly, or burning; turn your heat down a bit if need be.)
Sturdy, Sharp Knife
Meanwhile, ready a medium-sized autumn/winter squash. For a wide or round squash cut it in half, from top to bottom, but for a tall squash, such as butternut, cut it in half at the equator. Remove and discard the seeds (unless you’re keen to roast them later). Take one half of your squash, face down on the cutting board, and carefully slice/peel the skin off from top to bottom; do the same with the other half. Chop your squash into cubes. Stir into your cooked onions, along with another good pinch of kosher or sea salt, and cook for 5 minutes.
Tying it Up
Drain your finished beans, retaining all of their liquid. Stir this bean broth into the squash, covering by 1-2 inches. (If there isn’t enough bean broth to cover by that much, then add further water or chicken stock.) If using canned beans, drain and rinse two 14 oz. cans of white beans, and simply add fresh water and/or chicken stock by 1-2 inches. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the squash is almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in your beans, the remaining herbs, another good pinch of salt and pepper. Check to make sure all is tender and adjust the seasoning if need be.
NOTES & VARIATIONS
- Use your favorite variety of autumn/winter squash. Butternut is ubiquitous, and delicious. Some of our favorites are in the buttercup family, such as kabocha and red kuri. Try a new, or unusual one, if you’re in the mood for an adventure.