A large pot of soup simmers on the stove. Butternut squash. Cannellini beans. Red onions.
Slow cooked and spiced with bay leaves, maple syrup, sage, and nutmeg.
The beans cook into a mild cream alongside the nutty sweet butternut squash. It is warm and comforting like the sun bursting through paper-thin curtains on a brisk autumn day.
Top off the soup with a spoonful of creme fraiche and serve it with thick slices of country-style toast brushed with olive oil.
p.s. Double the soup for more leftovers, since it is especially good the next day.
White Bean and Butternut Squash Soup
inspired by The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and Chef Paul Hathaway's Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup served at Chez Albert in Amherst, Massachusetts
Yield 4 to 6 servings; 2 quarts
1 cup dried cannellini beans
3 cups vegetable stock (homemade or quality low-sodium brand)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 red onions (sliced thin)
4 sage leaves (plus 4-6 more for optional garnish)
2 bay leaves (1 for tenderizing beans and 1 for flavoring soup)
1 medium butternut squash (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
2 pinches nutmeg
sea salt and black pepper
4-6 sage leaves (fried)
1/2 cup canola oil
a few pinches of sea salt
creme fraiche (spoon, to taste)
Soak beans in 4 cups water overnight. Drain the soaking water and put beans in a large pot the vegetable stock, water, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are very soft. Cook beans for at least 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
Heat in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan the olive oil and butter. Add the sliced onions, sage leaves, and 1 bay leaf. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until tender. Stir in the prepared squash along with a few pinches of sea salt; cook for 5-10 minutes.
Drain the beans and add 6 cups of their cooking liquid to the squash mixture. Simmer until the squash becomes tender. Add the beans and continue cooking until the squash is very soft. Discard the bay leaves. Add the maple syrup and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree the soup, if you like, with an immersion blender in the pot, leaving it a bit chunky or put some or all of the soup (once it has cooled) into a blender and puree until smooth.
For the optional garnish, fry up the remaining 4-6 sage leaves in a small cast iron skillet with the canola oil. Turn the leaves and fry until crisp, about 30 seconds. Remove the sage leaves and salt them right away. Top each bowl with creme fraiche and sage.