Creamy zucchini, walnut, and white bean sauce (with sage)

Zucchini walnut sauce

One of my favorite lines from any movie is spoken by Ballou the bear in Jungle Book. “Fall apart in my back yard,” he says. It’s always seemed like such a tempting invitation. I’ve had a stressful week of cut fingers and a sick boy, making hard decisions about cut fingers and a sick boy (hard for me, anyway, indecision is my m.o.) trying to pretend I’m strong and that I’m not freaking out about everything when inside I’m a mess, and not sleeping much. Silly, I know, when taken individually, but it all added up to wear me out a little bit. So last night I spent a little time in my own backyard, in the the dark, cool evening, just enjoying the soft sounds of summer-night bug flights and the smell of the herb garden and yesterday’s fire. And then I saw a face in the witch hazel bush! Not as if somebody was standing there, but as if the witch hazel itself had a face. Two kind, softly glowing eyes in a dog-like face. I sat and stared at it a long while. I moved to another seat, and it was still there. I like to think about spirits all around me. When I clean the bathrooms (remember that I have two little boys!!) I always imagine a pee spirit living behind the toilets. A mischievous noisome yellow blob of a spirit, that I angry up when I bleach his home. I’ve always seen faces in tree trunks, and in stones, I see dog’s eyes and noses in knots in planks of wood. I swear it sometimes seems like everything has a message to tell me. And then, of course, there are the fireflies. (Fireflies and zucchini, again!?! Yup.) I love our witch hazel bush, with its wintertime flowers like fragrant fireworks. I felt oddly comforted by the idea of a witch hazel spirit. I sat for a long while, reluctant to go up to bed despite being exhausted, and thought about spirits. I finally went inside and locked everything up, and turned out all the lights, and through the window I could still see softly glowing eyes in the witch hazel.

If there was a spirit in our back yard, I imagine it would eat the sage in our vegetable garden, because sage seems like good spirit food. Well, I harvested some myself to make this pasta sauce. This is a good quick-meal-after-work sauce, and it’s a good way to use up some of my over-abundance of zucchini. The zucchini is blended with white beans, walnuts, and broth to make a thick and creamy, though cream-free sauce. I used the broth from the millet stew I’d made, and it was very flavorful with sage and bay leaves, but you could use any broth you have on hand, or even water. I also used caramelized onions, because I’d made a huge batch over the weekend (and cut my finger!) but if you don’t happen to have them lying around, a shallot or a regular onion would be fine. And that’s all I can say about that at the moment because Malcolm is desperate for the computer.

Here’s Aretha Franklin’s remarkable Spirit in the Dark, live in Philly.

1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup walnuts, toasted in a dry pan or toaster oven just till fragrant
1 T caramelized onions or 1 shallot – minced
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth, made with bay leaves and sage (or any broth you have, or water, even!)
5 or 6 fresh sage leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 red pepper flakes to taste
1 T butter (optional)
2 t sherry vinegar
salt and plenty of pepper

Put some salted water on to boil in a big pot. When it’s boiling, add your pasta shape of choice, and cook till it’s done just the way you like it.

Meanwhile…

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, 4 sage leaves (chopped) and pepper flakes, and cook till the garlic starts to brown. Add the zucchini, and cook till it starts to soften and become translucent. Add half the white beans and about 3/4 of the walnuts. Cook and stir for a few minutes, and then add the white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan, stir in all the tasty caramelized bits, and cook for about five minutes till it’s reduced. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes – till the zucchini is quite soft. Add the basil, butter (if using) and vinegar, season well with salt and pepper.

Carefully blend everything till it’s nice and smooth, and then return it to the pan. Add the rest of the white beans. Stir and warm through. Serve with the pasta. Mix the remaining walnuts, chopped up with the remaining sage leaves, and sprinkle them on top for crunch!

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4 thoughts on “Creamy zucchini, walnut, and white bean sauce (with sage)

  1. Pingback: Zucchini, hazelnut, and millet croquettes | Out of the Ordinary

  2. Pingback: Pumpkin and black bean enchiladas | Out of the Ordinary

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