This morning we stood in the kitchen side by side. We both held whisks, measuring cups, spoons. She was on the step stool; I used the knife. First we made banana bread—three over ripe fruits, flour, yogurt. A spoonful of grapefruit zest, some olive oil, maple syrup. Eggs. We whisked, stirred, poured. Turned on the oven.
Next up was the soup. I peeled the butternut, she examined the chunks. Orange flesh, still firm after four months on the counter top, warm and dry in the kitchen. We talked about Tim Friary as we scooped out the seeds, the fact that this squash came from his farm, that he'd grown it. We got out chicken stock, an onion, duck fat. Meanwhile, we put a pot of beans on to simmer. They were pintos, the last of last year's CSA. What we're making is dinner.
It's snowy, and she has the croup. We need cold air, steamy tea. A walk outside all bundled up, then a good sit by the wood stove and a bottle of hot cider. And for dinner: biscuits, butternut squash soup with sage and beans. A side of broccoli, or maybe kale. And homemade banana bread for dessert.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH SAGE AND BEANS
This is a simple, homey soup. It's adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters.
1 cup dried white, tan, or light brown beans
7 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons duck fat
2 onions, thinly sliced
10 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out, and cut into 1-inch cubes
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the beans in water overnight. Drain them and put them in a large pot with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Pour the beans through the strainer, reserving the cooking liquid, and set aside.
Warm up the duck fat over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions, sage leaves, and bay leaf and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir in the cooking liquid from the beans along with the squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the squash is very tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, then add the beans. Taste again for salt and pepper, season as needed, and serve hot.
Note: if you have extra sage, fry the leaves with salt and olive oil in a skillet. They make an deliciously crispy topping for the soup.