Cooking has always been a comfort to me. In the midst of a raging pandemic, cooking has become an essential self-care tool. In this moment, cooking sometimes is a burden. I have pretty much been cooking all my own meals from scratch. For this vegan Butternut Squash soup with White Beans, I actually cooked the beans. Some days I love it. Cooking is a distraction from the rising infection and death toll. On other days, I wish I had the choice of take-out. But I can’t at the moment because it is not financially prudent.
I often describe my decision to start cooking at the age of eight as a rebellion. In this moment, living to a historic pandemic and national anxiety, I recognize that choosing to cook was a statement of self-care and love. I have always used food as a way of declaring my love for people. Long ago, I recognized that I only cook for those I truly respect and love. Now that I am spending so much time alone, the choice to cook good flavorful food for myself is a statement of my love of self.
It can be easy to wallow in pity and depression when the news seems endlessly dark. When I step into my kitchen and decide to play with food, it is a moment to remove myself from everything that surrounds. In the kitchen, I find myself immersed in the joy of discovering new flavor combinations. Butternut squash is still one of those flavors that feels mythical in the kitchen.
I am not sure when I started eating butternut squash. However, I do know that butternut squash has become one of the things that makes living in New England during the cold fall and chilly winter so much better. This Butternut Squash Soup with White Beans is definitely comforting food for my soul.
When I first moved to America, I was living in California. The winters seemed so cold to this girl that left the warm humid days of Lagos Nigeria. Of course, now that I live in New England, Californian winters seemed like a precursor to summer. My first introduction to soup was the chicken soup that my stepmother lovingly made. It honored the Nigerian soup and the American soup so well with the base of tomato, onion, peppers cooked with lots of vegetables and chicken.
This vegan butternut squash soup with white bean is so different from that humble beginning. I feel like butternut squash is me stepping into my identity as an American. There is no animal derivative in this soup. The soup is a celebration of vegetables and the way flavor can be built in one pot.
One of the things I have come to love about butternut squash is its hardiness. When you buy a whole butternut squash, it can be stored for a long time in a pantry without going bad. Yes, it is a pain to peel butternut squash so it is a good idea to but it already peeled. Initially when I first started eating butternut squash, I used to buy it already peeled to also reduce waste. At Whole Foods Market, where I shop, they have them packaged in different amounts so I could buy just enough to cook.
Now that butternut squash is a staple of my cold weather diet, I buy it whole. One thing I have learned to do is to cook food in large quantities so that I can reheat and eat. Also, for butternut squash, I have found freezing it raw or roasted is a good way to meal-prep for soups. Since I regularly reach for it, I feel confident buying a large butternut squash.
When I was crafting this recipe, I wanted to have an ingredient that would give the soup a creamy texture, that wasn’t diary. I have nothing against diary. I have just found that when I choose to cook a vegan version of a meal, I am more adventurous with flavor profile. Since I can’t be complacent by using butter and cream, I have think of ways to boost the flavor in a vegan soup. Potato was another option I considered. Potato would have actually added the creaminess. However potato in soup lacks the nuttiness that you get from white beans.
One of the things that I like doing is cooking my own beans for meal prep. Often in my freezer, you are likely to find portions of frozen beans. This allows me to have beans with lower sodium content. The other part of cooking my own beans is layering in the flavor into the beans. I often cook my beans in my own housemade stock. This makes such a huge difference is something like this soup where the ingredients are so few.
One of the things to remember as you plan out this recipe is that the tomato paste is such an important part of building the soup’s flavor. Nothing can replace the umami of highly concentrated tomatoes with the layers of acidity and sweetness. Imagining the taste of tomato paste makes me realize it is under-rated. Honestly, I have never been one to use tomato paste much. In fact, I only really use tomato paste when I make jollof rice.
Butternut Squash Soup with White Beans
- 16 ounces Butternut Squash Cubed
- 1 cup White Beans cooked
- 1 Small Onions sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 Sprigs Thyme (1/2 tsp dried)
- 1/4 tsp Dried Rosemary
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp Salt (or to taste)
- 2 Cups Vegan Broth/Water
- Add the olive oil to a pot. Heat up for a minute before adding the onion slices. Cook onion slices for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic cloves.
- Allow onions to start becoming translucent before adding the butternut squash cubes. Allow the mix to seat for about 2 minutes to allows butternut squash to develop some color. Then add the tomato paste.
- Keeping cooking the mixture while stirring so that nothing burns. This stage allows the onion slices, butternut squash cubes, and tomato paste caramelize and build depth.
- Add in the white beans followed with the thyme, rosemary and broth/water. Cover the pot and allow it to simmer slowly for about 20 minutes.
- Butternut squash cubes should be tender after simmering. Allow to cool down a bit before blending to desired texture. If you want soup looser, add more water and simmer a bit before serving.