You really have to love Alice Water's new cookbook. It's like she took Simple French Food and the New Basics, put them in the blender [I know you don't like blenders, Alice, just use them when you really, really need them] pureéd them and sprinkled a little bit of The Way to Cook and anything written by Jacques Pepin over them and served. It's kind of genius, really. This new book is great, and Alice is reaching for serious relevance with it. You can just feel the ambition bursting out of it: The Art of Simple Food wants to be on your kitchen counter, kind of like Rand McNally want their atlas to be in your glove compartment. In any case, the soup I made today which is now cooling in my fridge and will be served on saturday to my beloved guests:
White Bean and Butternut Squash Soup (with modifications in red)
n.b. I made some modifications to this recipe which I think really help it. I'm guessing Alice isn't that ethnic, and I kind of am. I like a little zing, so I added some zinginess, but anything I did I'm putting in red so that you can follow Alice plain-and-simple if you'd prefer. I, however, humbly submit that I've improved on her recipe...
Soak in 4 cups of water overnight
1 cup dried white beans [I used organic Navy] such a cannelini, haricot blanc
Drain and put in a large pot with
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are tender. Alice says check after 45 minutes, but my beans were falling apart tender after 20 minutes.
Heat in a heavy bottomed pot:
2 Tbs olive oil or duck fat [3 Tbs canola oil]
2 onions [yellow] sliced thin
3 or 4 sage leaves [10 small fresh sage leaves]
1 bay leaf
Cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Cook for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and add 6 cups [all] of the cooking liquid to the squash and onions along with 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves. Add 1 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook at a simmer until the squash becomes tender. Add the white beans. Purée half the soup mixture. Keep cooking until the squash is very tender. Purée 1 can (15.5 oz) of cannelini beans with some of the soup, and add back to the soup. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
Serve in individual bowls, floating with a toasted slice of baguette that has been rubbed with raw garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle chopped parsely and freshly ground pepper over bowl at last minute.