I spent the evening with my grandma last night. I gave her tickets to see the LA Philharmonic for Christmas, as she mentioned years ago that she had always wanted to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It really is a gorgeous building with impeccable architecture. When I picked her up, she told me she spent the entire day getting ready - polished her jewelry, painted her nails, trimmed her own hair, tried on all her clothes and took in her pants. I couldn't say the same for myself. I'm trying to grow my hair back out and we're at an incredibly awkward stage of shoulder length curls. And my outfit? A collection hand-me-downs from my younger sister.
It took just a moment, as she was telling me about her day, to recognize how the perspective of time is so relative. I try to accomplish as much as I can in a day - to make a list and cross things off so that I feel success when the day is done. Maybe it's her age; at 82 you have neither the need nor the energy to hustle around. Or possibly the wisdom that those lists aren't the things she tells me about when she talks about her younger years. She was an only child, but on the ride home, she reminisced about Sunday dinners with extended family, poker nights and her favorite uncle who had a garage with all sorts of gadgets and toys. The cheer in her voice was never about privilege or a life of luxury, but how great it was that her dad was close to his brothers and their families spent time together. "It was a really good life."
It put me in my place. Whatever I am trying to prove to myself by being busy, is not necessarily the mark of success. Could I spend an entire day primping myself for a night out with my grandma? It's unlikely, but every so often, some circumstance like this nudges me to cool it just a bit. I'm not saying I'm the most task oriented person in the world, but I do allow those tasks to qualify a good day. Something tells me a long list will not be what I tell my granddaughter about when I recall it being "A good life."
This soup is easy to pull together and a nice change from the smooth soups I've been making. It's almost stew like, and I felt like I could pour some over a bowl of quinoa or brown rice, like a curry of sorts. I do love my beans, but it is different to have the chopped cabbage and butternut to break up the texture. With enough garnishes, you can shine a bowl of this up to really look like something great, cause last time I checked, a chunky soup wasn't much of a looker.
BLACK BEAN + BUTTERNUT SOUP // Serves 4-6
Inspired by Coconut and Quinoa
Some of my measurements are pretty vague, but in a stew-like soup, perfection is not necessary. Taste as you go, add more spice if necessary but beware that both chipotle and cayenne are SPICY, so start small. You can cook your beans from scratch or used canned for the sake of time.
1 Tbsp. coconut or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2 cups)
3 cups cubed butternut squash (sweet potato would be good too)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
pinch of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked, black beans (about one can, rinsed and drained)
salt to taste
avocado, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish
// tortilla crispies //
3 corn tortillas
scant 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
In a heavy bottomed pot, warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash, another pinch of salt and saute again. Add the broth, chili powder, cumin and cocoa. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot with the lid ajar and cook for about 20 minutes for the vegetables to cook.
Add the beans and stir. Let everything continue to simmer another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Season to taste. At this point, I did a few pulses with my immersion blender through the soup, because I wanted to thicken up the broth a bit. This is optional, but makes it more viscous. You could alternatively, run just a bit of the soup through a blender or food processor, and add it back in to the pot. OR a sprinkle of cornmeal will help thicken it as well.
For the tortilla crispies, preheat the oven to 375'. Stack them and slice into thin matchsticks. Spread on a baking sheet, dirzzle with the oil, sprinkle the salt and toss gently to coat. Spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes until they are light brown and crispy, giving the pan a shake halfway through.
Garnish each both with some diced avocado, a handful of chopped cilantro and some of the tortilla crispies! A sprinkle of goat cheese would be quite nice as well.