VEGAN WITHOUT THE CHEESE /// MAKES 6 SERVINGS
Winter squash makes a great partner for white beans—or most types of beans for that matter. It sweetens the broth as it simmers, as do the leeks. This is a perfect winter stew. The method is slightly different from the template, as I cook the beans separately for a while and then add the vegetables to them; I also use fewer beans. So I’ve presented this as a stand-alone recipe.
¾ pound white beans (such as navy, cannellini, or lima beans)
1 onion, cut in half lengthwise
1 garlic clove, crushed; plus 2 to 4 large garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 bouquet garni: a couple sprigs each parsley and thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 sage leaves, and a Parmesan rind wrapped in cheesecloth
7 to 8 cups water, as needed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large or medium leeks, well cleaned and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound winter squash, such as butternut, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon slivered sage
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino for garnish (optional)
- Unless you are using lima beans, soak the beans for 4 hours or longer in 2 quarts water.
- Drain the beans and transfer to a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the halved onion, crushed garlic clove, bouquet garni, and 7 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove and discard the onion and crushed garlic clove.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Do not brown. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir the leeks and garlic into the beans. Add the diced squash and bring back to a simmer. If the ingredients are not covered with liquid, add another ½ to 1 cup of water. Add salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons or more; beans need a lot of salt), cover, and simmer until the beans are thoroughly tender and the squash is so tender that it is beginning to fall apart, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in the slivered sage and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust salt. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Serve, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino if desired.
ADVANCE PREPARATION: The cooked beans will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and freeze well.