17 January 2011

Family recipe Monday: staying warm, giving back

Barn buildings in the snow

I haven't done nearly as much photography in the past couple of months as I would like or need to. It's been difficult to get away from the museum, and sometimes impossible to drive on the blue highways in this not-quite snow and not-quite ice we've been having. And that just feels wrong. I'll do better, at least monthly. The light is terrific these days, and so far the snow has been minimal.

Today is the Martin Luther King Day of Service. We're throwing our support to the Reach Out and Read program.All other factors being more or less equal, early literacy makes the most difference in building rich and productive lives. Get out there and give a book, or read one to a child. It's a huge investment in the future of your community. MLK Day is no longer just another three-day weekend.

But make sure you stay warm out there. No one can understand you if you are trying to read aloud with your teeth chattering or your energy flagging, after all. Building on last week's stocks, here are some good winter soups to fuel your community spirit.

There are a number of elegant squashes that are winter vegetables, often overlooked in the produce aisle. This recipe calls for the warm-weather scallop or patty-pan squash, but can be used with any of the others. It's especially good with butternut squash. Use chicken stock for this one.

Volunteer butternut squash arising out of a stray seed in the compost pile, from Delaware.

Squash soup with rosemary

¼ cup vegetable oil
6 large white scalloped squash, coarsely chopped
1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
2 T chicken broth base
2 cups water
1 pint half-and-half
2 T minced rosemary
Salt and pepper

Heat oil over moderate heat in a large skillet. Add squash and onion, and sauté for 4 minutes while stirring. Add chicken broth base and water. Stir and cover. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft. Drain and reserve liquid. Process the solids to puree. Combine puree with liquid and half-and-half. Add rosemary and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat and stir. Serve either warm or chilled. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a sprig of rosemary. Serves 8.

Multi-bean soup mixes are always good to have on hand. They are easy to make, too, and incredibly inexpensive. Many of us were sent off to college with a pretty glass jar filled with a colorful bean mix and strict instructions to make soup for ourselves, since dorm food could not be trusted. You can substitute other kinds of meat or protein for the bacon and sausage, or leave them out altogether, depending on your tastes. If you're not in Ro-Tel country, use crushed tomatoes and chopped green chilies. Extra points if you grew them yourselves. You can substitute stock for part or all of the water. This is a natural for a slow cooker. The lemon juice really adds a shine to the taste--don't add it until you are ready to serve.

Seven-bean soup

Bean mix

Use 1 lb. each of the following dry beans:

Lima beans
Kidney beans
Pinto beans
Navy beans
Black beans
Split green peas

Mix together thoroughly and store in closed glass jars.


2 cups bean mix
5 quarts water
2 slices bacon
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
10-oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes with chiles
1 lb. country-style breakfast sausage, browned
2 T lemon juice

Wash and pick over beans carefully. Place in a large pot and cover with 2 1/2 quarts water. Soak at least 2 hours. Bring to a boil and remove from flame. Discard water. Fill with fresh water (2 1/2 quarts again) and bring to boil again with bacon slices. Add onion and garlic. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat, and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hour or until beans are soft but not mushy. Add Ro-Tel and cook for 30 minutes. Add browned and drained sausage. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Remove and discard bacon slices. Simmer for a few more hours. Serve hot with tortilla chips or over rice.

Here is another version.

Nine bean soup

Bean mix

Use 1 lb. each of the following dry beans:

Dried yellow split peas
Black beans
Red beans
Pinto beans
Navy beans
Great Northern beans
Dried split green peas
Red lentils
Dried black-eyed peas
Barley pearls

Combine all beans and barley. Divide into 10 2-cup portions.


2 cups nine-bean mix
2 quarts water
1 lb. diced ham
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ to ¾ tsp salt
10-oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes, undrained
16-oz can tomatoes, chopped, undrained

Sort and wash beans carefully. Place in a large pot and cover with water 2” above beans. Soak overnight. Drain beans. Add water, ham, onion, garlic and salt. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 2 quarts. Serve with cornbread or corn tortillas.

Happy Monday. Go make your corner of the world a little brighter today.

Schoolhouse, South Dakota.

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