Humans have been cultivating and reaping the nutritional benefits of squash since the birth of civilization. Winter squash is rich in antioxidants and antiinflammatory compounds including high levels of α and β carotene and vitamin C, offers lots of fiber, and is being studied for its role in cancer prevention. It is delicious prepared in myriad ways. This month, as autumn winds turn our thoughts toward hearty, warming meals, we will explore the many health benefits of winter squash and taste some wonderful recipes along the way.
The recipe below was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She has been sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.” — Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
From: Simply Recipes, Elise Bauer
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
3 bay leaves
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2-pound sugar pumpkin, halved, seeds scooped out, flesh peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks (~3½ cups). (The same quantity of butternut or almost any winter squash can be substituted)
½-pound ham hock
8 cups chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained OR 1 large fresh, ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with string (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (home-cooked cannellini beans can be substituted)
4 large Swiss chard leaves, center rib removed and leaves roughly chopped (kale makes a great substitute)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pot (5–6 quart). Add the onion and bay leaves and cook for 2–3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chopped celery, cook for 2–3 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more.
Add the chopped pumpkin and ham hock to the pot. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and thyme. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, uncovered. Let simmer for 1½ hours.
Remove the ham hock from the soup pot and let cool enough to handle. Add the white beans and cook for 15 minutes. Add the chopped chard and simmer until it is wilted, a few minutes more.
Strip the meat from the ham hock, chop it, and return to the pot. If needed, add 1–2 cups of water to the soup to thin. Remove bay leaves before serving. Add freshly ground black pepper and adjust seasonings to taste.
Note from Dr. Doody: This is a more colorful and nutritious version of basic white bean and ham soup. It is pretty easy to make, especially if you purchase cubed peeled butternut squash.