The wind has been blowing, really blowing. Gusts up to fifty miles per hour, they say. Windy days are not unusual in Seattle at this time of year, but they always get my attention. There is a power in the wind that demands notice. Leaves scud by, then a really powerful gust hits and all of the trees rock and sway like a line of hula dancers. The house snaps and settles, and the cat raises his head and flicks his ears irritably before sinking back into sleep, snug in his chair. Rain hits the roof in waves–gently, then pelting like bullets. The air outside is pungent with the fresh green scent of cedar, and the streets are littered with just-snapped branches.
My little house has nestled here, safe and solid, for fifty-odd years, through storms much fiercer than this. Still, when the wind really starts howling, I raise my head just like the cat, thinking briefly about the massive trees surrounding my snug home. Stay put, I bless them, before turning my attention resolutely elsewhere.
I have more mundane concerns, like the bread that has been in the bread machine for three hours, with ninety minutes still on the clock, as another salvo of wind-driven rain lashes down and the lights flicker yet again. “Just another hour and a half,” I mentally plead with the storm, as if I can bargain or wheedle to save my bread.
The ninety minutes go by, and the power is still on. The house is still warm and now full of the infinitely comforting scent of fresh bread.
A day like this is made for fresh bread and a scalding hot bowl of soup, this soup in particular– Butternut Squash, Kale, and Mushroom Soup. It’s simple enough to put together, and only requires an hour or so on the stovetop—no time at all, really, as you go about your Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and let the soup simmer. It will perfume your house with its rich and tempting aroma. Your nose will tell you when it is done, leading you, at just the right time, to abandon whatever you are doing and settle down at the table with a big bowl of steaming soup and a chunk of buttery bread. Everything you need for a satisfying meal is right there in the bowl, with a contrast of textures and flavors, from the yielding squash to the firm mushrooms, the smoothness of beans to the crunch of kale.
Whatever the climate outside your window, may you create a little warmth and peace in your own heart and at your hearth.
Butternut Squash, Kale, and Mushroom Soup
(adapted from Whole Living Magazine)
- 1 cup dried cannellini beans
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 bunch kale (8 oz.), stems removed and leaves thinly sliced (6 cups)
Soak beans overnight in water. Drain. Heat oil in a large pot over medium flame. Add onions and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Turn heat to medium high. Add mushrooms; cook until golden brown. Return onions to pot and add garlic, squash, beans, bay leaf, and stock. Season with pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover partially. Cook until beans are just tender, about 50 to 60 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season with salt.