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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Novel Food - Butternut & Bean Soup

I belong to a book club with a good group of intelligent women, who also appreciate that art of gastronomy. Each month we rotate who hosts and picks the novel. When we meet to discuss the novel we always have a dinner party themed around the book, particularly any ‘culinary inspiration’ offered by the book. We have enjoyed African food after reading What is the What by Dave Eggers, Sri Lankan food – Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, 50s Chicago style dinner after reading Revoluationary Road and most recently Jewish Food after enjoying A.J. Jacobs humor book called A Year of Living Biblically. I have blogged about this before and had vowed to blog about each book club dinner, but have not followed through.

Therefore when I stumbled upon the new edition of Novel Food, a culinary event that Lisa of Champaign Taste and Simona briciole co-launched a few seasons ago I was excited to blog about Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. For this meal we all contributed to the dinner potluck style. This novel made it easy for us to decide on the menu considering the whole novel is literally about food and provides recipes in the text. In this post I have provided a brief summary of the novel and posted a couple of the recipes I enjoyed the most. In keeping with Kingsolver’s theme about eating local we attempted to buy all the ingredients and products in season from local vendors.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a narrative & part memoire of Kingsolver’s family journey from an urban life in Arizona to a rural lifestyle in West Virginia, where they vow to eat only locally grown food for one year (Exceptions: spices, coffee, olive oil and flour whereby fair trade alternatives were purchased). The chapters flow from month to month and season to season recounting how the family learns about farming, gardening, cooking and ultimately become an integral part of their community.In Kingsolver’s words: “This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals & vegetables whose provenance we really knew and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbours, drank the water, and breathed the air."

The first course was this wonderful butternut bean soup, which a bookclub member decorated so elegantly with local organic thyme.


1½ cups dried white beans, soaked overnight and drained
3 medium portabella mushroom caps, sliced (optional)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbs. thyme
1 tbs. sage
4 tsp. rosemary
2 butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Olive oil

Combine beans and spices in a large sauce pan, add water to cover amply, simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until beans are tender and most water has cooked off.
Add mushrooms toward the end.
While beans are cooking, drizzle a large roasting pan with olive oil and arrange squash skin-side-down.
Cook at 400 for about 40 minutes, until fully tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and serve each half squash filled with a generous scoop of bean soup.

The soup was hearty and delicious. Locally speaking, my dad was able to grow over 30 butternut squashes with nothing but sun and water.


*Original recipe adapted to use green house spinach rather than Swiss chard and jalapeno cheddar & monterey jack instead of brie. The sweet potatoes, onion, garlic and spinach came from a local organic greenhouse. The flavor and texture of these quesadillas were likely the best I have ever had.

2 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 onion1 clove garlic
1 T oregano
1 T basil
1 tsp cumin
chile powder and cayenne powder to taste
Olive oil for saute

Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, cook until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic. Add onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato, mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky.
Turn burner very low to keep warm without burning.
4 flour tortillas
4 oz. jalapeno
cheddar (St. Albert Cheese Factory)
5 leaves spinach

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a large baking sheet, spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling over entire toritillas. Top with slices cheese and spinach. Place another tortilla on top of filling and press down. Bake until browned and crisp (15 min.). Cut into wedges & serve.

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Chef Fresco said...

I just joined a book club too. Will have to look this one up. The soup looks delicious!

Simona said...

Beautiful presentation! I am bookmarking this, as I am a big fan of butternut squash. Very interesting book club too. Thank you so much for your contribution to our event.

librariane said...

Several people have recommended this book, though I didn't realize the recipes were included! Thanks for including that in your review. :)

Lisa said...

What a wonderful thing, your book club and the dinners. I actually have the Kingsolver book, but I haven't read it yet. That bean soup is beautiful, and beautifully decorated. Thanks a million for joining us for the Novel Food event!

Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) said...

I love your presentation - everything looks wonderful! yum!

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