Fall Minestrone with Kale and Butternut Squash

Winter is definitely a week away. In fact I might argue that winter showed up in San Francisco early. As the hubby and I strolled through Hayes Valley yesterday killing time between brunch and the ballet I asked “When did this neighborhood become so New York City?”

I am not sure if the hipster residents of Hayes Valley would love that I compared their neighborhood to NYC but I am not sure if it was more the neighborhood or the weather. Overcast gray skies, chilly air, and fallen leaves reminded me so much of home. It even reminded my hubby of my home.

To make my new (I use the term very loosely) home feel a bit more like my old home I’ve started searching for recipes that warm your bones and make your apartment (or house) smell like a delicious home cooked meal. When I stumbled on a recipe for minestrone with kale and butternut squash I simply had to try it. Plus I needed to find a use for that butternut squash sitting on my counter.

One of my favorite soups as a kid was minestrone. The brand of choice was Progresso. But Progresso has nothing on this delicious soup. I have to admit I was a bit daunted by the task – cooking beans from scratch and so much chopping but when I really broke it down it wasn’t so bad! Yes cooking beans from scratch does take a bit of planning ahead and chopping is probably one of my least favorite activities, but get yourself a food processor and you are good to go!

Not only was the soup beyond delish, it also made my apartment smell like a home. There was nothing better than curling up on my couch with my hubby, a blanket and a bowl of yummy soup. Despite the work that went into this, I will definitely make it again. In fact, I might use the other butternut squash sitting on my counter to make another batch.

Fall Minestrone with Kale and Butternut Squash (adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food) 

1 cup dried cannellini beans (see instructions below to prepare)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery stalks finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 tsp chopped rosemary

1 tsp chopped sage

2 tsps of salt

1 bunch of kale, stemmed, washed, and chopped

1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, drained

3 cups of water

1 small leek, diced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)

1 cup bean cooking liquid

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery and cook to a rich golden brown.

Add garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, kale, and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add water and bring to a boil.

Add the leeks and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the squash and continue to cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the cooked beans and bean liquid. Cook for 5 minutes. If the soup is too thick add more bean cooking liquid.

Serve in bowls with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Soaking and Cooking Beans

1 cup of dried cannellini beans

Soak the cannellini beans over night in water, ensure that there is three times as much water as there are beans. Drain after soaking and use fresh water for cooking them.

In a wide non-reactive pot (I used my le creuset) add the beans and enough water so that they are covered by more than an inch. Bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and skim off any foam. Simmer gently for 1 hour or so. Test the beans by biting into one to ensure that they are cooked.

When done let them cool in the water before draining so as not to crack the skin. Make sure to save some of the water.

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