Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beans, sausage, squash, greens. And fall.



Lately, I've been eating a lot of soups filled with beans, sausage, squash and greens. There is a pot of it sitting on my stove right now, in fact. It started with this black bean and squash chili that I made for the first time last year and again a few weeks ago. Then I substituted the black beans for chickpeas and omitted the cumin and chili pepper for simple salt and pepper, and added a few links of chicken sausage. Tonight, there were white beans and spinach, and in the end, a short glug of red wine vinegar just to brighten things up a bit.



I've found that pot of soup bubbling on the stove on a weeknight, after the dinner dishes have been cleared away and a glass of red wine poured, is the just the thing I need -- love -- on evenings when the air is getting cooler, and we're still refusing to turn on the heat. A pot of soup just warms everything up. I've been packing them up for my lunch every day, and storing a cup or two in the freezer, although the way I've been making these soups every week, there may not even be a need for the reserves.

The truth is, I have been craving warm comfort foods. I've got my eye on dishes that involve stew meats braised in sauces for hours, shepherd's pies, slow cooker meals, recipes that call for a bottle of Guinness stout. I've even suggested a few to Murdo, to which he responded that it was still 70 degrees outside, and wait until it's colder.




That was last week. This week, I've been pulling on my boots, sweaters and scarves. I've been turning the heat on in my car in the morning. I've been crunching leaves beneath my feet as I walk to the front door at the end of the day. I've been making soup. These are the things that I enjoy in the fall, when the air still has a back-to-school feel and we haven't yet reached the painful winds and grumbles of winter. But please, let's not talk about winter yet. It's still very, very fall.

What kind of warm comfort foods are you looking forward to?



Fall Soup with Squash, Sausage, Beans, Greens (adapted from Fine Cooking)
I love the way this recipe can be altered and varied according to what I have in my fridge and pantry. The butternut squash is key, as is the sausage -- they really flavor the soup, although you could easily make this dish vegetarian by using vegetable broth and omitting the meat altogether. As for the greens, I used spinach tonight, but I prefer kale more for its bite-y texture. I've also used just one can of broth to make the soup thicker and more stew-like, but use two if you like more of a soupy soup. Bottom line: Adapt this recipe to your tastes. Enjoy!

2 tbs olive oil
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
6-8 ounces pre-cooked chicken sausage, about 2 links, sliced into halves(I use Trader Joe's Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage.)
1 15 oz can chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups chopped kale, spinach, chard, or other leafy green
dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add garlic, onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften and smell awesome. Add squash, thyme, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook a few minutes, until squash starts to become tender. Add sausage, and tomatoes with their juice. Add broth and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the squash is very tender, or as tender as you like it. Add greens and cook until wilted (heartier green, like kale, will take longer than spinach to wilt).

7 comments:

  1. yes! soup is totally on and it's what makes autumn and winter more bearable. i'm loving the colors of your newest soup, if there was such a thing as an autumn rainbow, they'd have those colors.

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  2. I would just like to say that those photos of the trees and sun (around your neighborhood, I'm guessing?) are gorgeous. Oh, fall. It is cold and it is dark and it reminds me winter's coming... BUT it is so freaking beautiful. And of course, there are the soups. I love all comfort foods. Lately, I've been craving pudding.

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  3. lan - wow, i just noticed that about the colors! now that i think about it, seasonal foods do often take on the colors of the season -- the green of asparagus and peas in the spring, the bold colors of summer produce, orange-y red foods in the fall, and those ugly yet comforting meals of winter...

    shanna - thank you! yes, those photos were taken around my neighborhood! i think photography has really gotten me to appreciate the seasons a lot more.

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  4. That recipe is so fall-ish :o) Here in Houston, it is still in the upper 90's... I'm waiting until I go to Portland again for it to really feel like fall. I'm doing little things like buying orange candles & tiny pumkins to create the mood! Have a great Friday!
    xo,
    Linnea

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  5. linnea - upper 90s?! that's insane! well, i'm glad you're still getting into the fall spirit, despite the hot weather. and i'll be jealous of you when it's freezing in chicago!

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  6. Hi there, Jacqui. I've been meaning to tell you that I made a version of this soup for dinner last week, and it was wonderful. I used the butternut squash and spinach that came in our farm share, canned navy beans, and fresh thyme instead of dried, since that's what we had. Thanks for the inspiration, friend! xo.

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  7. jess - yay! so glad you enjoyed it. i've got a ziploc bag of the stuff defrosting in my sink as we speak. your comment reminded me that i want some for lunch tomorrow. :)

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