After all the snowy, snow snow and ice-itty ice ice and overall general theatrics of this week, I think we could all use a big bowl of belly-warming comfort soup. Yes? This one fit the bill for me this afternoon. It is pure texture— pure velvety goodness. Really, it's just that smooth. And I know, some of you will look at the soaking the beans scenario and say, "Egads, not for me." But don't. It's not that big a deal: Saturday morning, throw those beans in a big ol' pot and fill 'er up with water and go about your day. By the afternoon, you're in business. Dump the water and get on with it! Mmmmm…
Cannelini Bean and Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from The Very Best of Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman
1 pound cannelini beans
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, divided and minced
2 1/2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
2-3 each of thyme and parsley
2 sage leaves
Salt to taste
3 leeks, white part only, well washed and chopped
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeds and membranes removed, and cut into 1" dice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Rinse your dry beans well in a strainer and pick out any wonky looking ones, dark ones and the like. Place in a large pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Soak for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
Combine the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and sage into a little bundle and wrap in cheesecloth. Tie with kitchen string. If you don't have cheesecloth, just tie them all together as securely as possible—you want to be able to remove it easily. (This is called a bouquet garni.)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook gently until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir together for about 30 seconds, then add the drained beans and the water. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the top. Add the bouquet garni, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and the squash. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and the squash is coated with oil and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir into the beans. Add salt to taste and continue to simmer for another hour or so, until the beans and vegetables are thoroughly tender and falling apart. Taste and adjust salt. Remove the bouquet garni.
Working in batches of 1 1/2 to 2 cups, puree the soup in the blender. Do not seal the top tightly as you do this, as the heat may cause pressure to build up. Return to pot and place over medium-low until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with slivered sage leaves.