Have you heard Maggie Rogers’s new album, “Heard It In A Past Life”? It’s so f—king good. I could use a better adjective but I’m so distracted by the cathartic, almost hypnotizing depth of her songs that it’s all I can muster. I think I’m speaking for us both when I say that that album, slightly effervescent natural wines, and easy vegetable soups are the three things carrying us through winter. That might sound specific, but it’s true.
I’m spending three weeks in Colorado at my sister’s house and it feels amazing - amazing to wake up in the same bed every morning, even if it means waking up to my nephew knocking on the door at 630am; amazing to spend five hours at the same coffee shop every day where the room is almost always sunlit and the people are always nice, albeit a little annoying. I have a bad habit of drifting into the wine store in downtown Boulder and accidentally buying 3 $30-something bottles of wine that the cute clerk waxed poetic about. To be fair, he doesn’t even wax poetic. He just says he likes something and suddenly I’m keen to buy it.
In any case, I made this soup the other night while drinking a bottle of natural Chenin blanc and listening to Maggie Rogers and I highly suggest the combination. It’s an easy-to-make, hearty, warm little bowl of vegetables that tastes much fancier than it is. Adjusting for the dead of winter, I used squash in lieu of carrots, which is nice because some of the squash pieces start to break up and thicken the broth a bit. I went with kabocha but any squash will do. You can keep the skin on with a kabocha, acorn or delicata - but make sure to peel your butternuts and pumpkins (and don’t forget to save all your squash scraps, peels + seeds to make squash stock). I also used chickpeas the second time I made this - only because I ran out of navy beans. Both are good - this soup is flexible!
Needs some wine ideas? Martha Stoumen just released her newest Flirtation blends - and past vintages are absolutely incredible. Here’s a few others that we’re loving lately: Allesandro Viola Note de Bianco and anything from Vini Viti Vinci. Why natural wine? Good question.
Yield: 4-6 servings
To prep the vegetables:
Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Roughly chop the chard leaves and set aside. Thinly slice the chard stems at an angle.
Peel squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop seeds out with a spoon. Slice squash into ~1/4 inch pieces.
To cook the soup:
In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions and crushed garlic in olive oil, stirring occasionally as not to burn. When fragrant and beginning to caramelize, add chard stems. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add squash to pot, stirring to distribute, sautéing until it begins to brown a bit (~5 minutes).
Add tomato paste and stir to coat vegetables. Cook for 2-3 minutes. It will begin to caramelize and brown. This is good! Now add the paprika and stir.
Next, add 4 cups water to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then leave over medium-low heat until the squash begins to soften, 10-15 minutes. When it’s softening but still a little toothsome, add the cooked beans. Stir to combine and season with salt to taste.
If the soup seems too thick, feel free to add a little water.
If serving right away, add the chopped Swiss chard leaves. Keep simmering for about 5 minutes, until the greens are soft. Squeeze the lemon into the soup and stir.
3 cups navy beans or chickpeas, fresh-cooked or canned & strained
3 cloves crushed garlic, plus 1 left whole
1/2 white onion, sliced
1/2 butternut squash
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp hot paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
a fresh hunk of parmiagiano-reggiano
1/2 loaf of good quality sourdough bread, preferably whole grain
Toast a few thick pieces of whole-grain sourdough bread. Peel the garlic clove and rub the bread with it - it will start to scrape on the toasty bread and infuse it with garlicky goodness. Sprinkle some crunchy salt and olive oil on top, then place the bread in the bottom of a wide bowl (you can also serve it on the side).
Pour the soup over the top. Generously grate the parm over the top, plus a good grind of black pepper, and enjoy!