Call me dull, but I find comfort in routine. Rushing out the door every day to fresh, crisp air and morning light, coming home every night at the same time and wondering what to have for dinner, settling into my corner of the couch for the rest of the evening, often with a fat cat resting on my chest.
This need for routine comes with colder weather and darker days, when going outside seems almost pointless once 5 o'clock hits, and all I want to cook are familiar foods with familiar ingredients that are simple, easy, and comforting.
And then someone hands me a butternut squash, a vegetable not completely unfamiliar but one I've never cooked with. My experiences with squash involve me as a very little girl, eating a Filipino dish called pinakbet, and squashing the squash with my tongue and the roof of my mouth -- amazing my parents by making it vanish without even chewing! I don't do that anymore, but I still think of it every time I see a butternut squash.
Butternut squash soup immediately came to mind and was promptly suggested when I asked what to do with it, but I just couldn't bring myself to make something so plain and boring. I found a recipe that combined squash with black beans and I found it interesting and different and just went with it.
I wasn't entirely excited about the dish and kind of expected it to turn out a bit bland. But who knew that squash and black beans make a wonderful combination of flavors? Add kale to the mix, and you've got another color, texture, and nutrient to play with. A welcome change to my menu of routine.
Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Kale
(adapted from Bon Appétit)
This recipe calls for chili powder and cumin, which I used, but not in the measurements suggested because I don't like too much heat. My dish ended up not spicy at all, which was fine, because the butternut squash was flavorful enough for me. When it comes to spices, I always suggest adding what you're comfortable with and adjusting as you go along.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes in juice
3 cups (packed) coarsely chopped kale (Original recipe called for Swiss chard, which I wanted to use just for the gorgeous color, but the bunches at my market were gross. So I went with kale, which added a nice bite-y texture to the soft squash and black beans. I'm sure any green will do just fine.)
Heat oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender and golden, about 9 minutes. Add squash and stir 2 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Add black beans, broth, and tomatoes with juices, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Add kale and simmer until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve.