Curried butternut & black bean soup

Curried butternut black bean soup

When we decided to get Clio, David said, “You can’t be insane about this one!” What? Me? Insane about a dog? What could he be talking about? Sigh, it’s true, there’s no denying it. I was crazy about Steenbeck, and not always in a good way. I wouldn’t let anybody else walk her or keep her overnight. I avoided getting a full time job, so I wouldn’t have to leave her alone. No…more than that…I got myself fired from a full time job a few months after we adopted her. Heh heh heh. That’s right! It’s all Steenbeck’s fault! And before I was insane about Steenbeck, I was insane about David – not that I wouldn’t let anybody else walk him, but that I worried about him all the time. And before I met David, I worried about myself a lot – I worried myself sick, I gave myself an ulcer at 23. Well, meeting David helped me to worry less about myself, and getting Steenbeck helped me to worry less about David, and each succeeding boy has helped me to worry less about everyone else. Because, of course, I’m insane about my boys as well. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, lately, since Clio has been in the house. I don’t feel insane about her, but have I left her alone for a minute yet? I have not. I will though, I think I’ll be better this time. I’ve let Malcolm walk her all over town! He’s very good at it! It’s such a joy to see how pleased he is with the responsibility, and how much he likes taking care of her. Because there is pleasure in taking care of someone, as well as anxiety. That’s partly why we get dogs; it’s partly why we have children. It’s a joy to love someone, and nourish them, and protect them, and make them feel safe. And one thing the boys have taught me, is that it’s a joy to give them some freedom, too. To give them responsibility, and to let them do things for themselves. If I had my way, I’d probably still walk the boys to school when they’re in college. But I remember the thrill, when I was little, of running to the mailbox on the next corner. We had to cross a street! We’d go when it was getting dark and spooky! We were fine, and made it home safely. The boys are so happy finding their own new paths like that. Around the block. To the candy store across the street. Small journeys that become huge adventures when they go together, without me. It seems silly, but it makes them stronger and more confident. When Malcolm walks Clio he’s very serious and careful, a far cry from the boy who zips down the towpath waving sticks and startling passing cyclists. Watching him with her, I feel like I have learned some balance. I’ve learned that I’d worry more about not letting him explore the world on his own (sometimes), because he needs that freedom, and giving that to him is a way of nurturing him. He knows that I worry, he knows that I need to know where he is at all times, even when he’s not in my sight. But if I can find the right balance, and let him know that I worry just enough to be glad when he makes it home, but not enough to keep him home altogether, that makes the journey all the more wonderful. After school yesterday, Malcolm was crying-tired. Everything we said or did upset him. He threw himself on the couch. Little Clio jumped up and curled up beside him. She’s taking care of him, too!

Soup seems like such a perfect comfort this time of year. David asked for soups, and soups he will get. He’s got what seems like the start of a winter-long cold, so I was hoping this spicy, flavorful soup would make him feel better. He said it was just what he needed!! I made it with a butternut squash and fresh tomatoes, but if you’re reading this in the middle of pumpkin, I suspect you could make it with a can of pumpkin, a good can of diced tomatoes, and a good can of black beans, and it would be very good as well.

Here’s Elmore James’ It Hurts Me, Too, which is one of my favorite songs ever by anyone.


1 medium sized butternut squash
4 or 5 medium-sized tomatoes
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
2 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t black mustard seeds
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 t cumin
1 t ginger
1/2 t fenugreek
pinch each allspice & cinnamon
small knob of butter
1 t lemon juice
1/2 cup coconut milk
small handful fresh basil, washed and chopped
salt and plenty of pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut the top and bottom off of the squash. Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place it face down on a baking tray, and roast until it’s soft and dark – 30 to 40 minutes depending on the squash. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel the squash and roughly chop it.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. Cut the tops off the tomatoes, gently squeeze the seeds out, and cut a small X in the bottom. Drop them in the boiling water. In less than a minute their skins should pucker. Drain them, let them cool, and then peel and roughly chop them

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the shallot, when it starts to brown add the garlic, mustard seeds and red pepper flakes. After about a minute, when the garlic starts to brown, add the squash and tomato. Stir and cook for a few minutes, till the tomatoes are soft. Add the spices and a few cups of water – enough to cover the tomatoes and squash by about half an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the squash and tomatoes are meltingly soft – about ten minutes. Add the lemon juice and butter, and puree in small batches.

Return the soup to the pot, add the coconut milk, basil, and black beans, and season with salt and plenty of pepper. Warm through, but don’t let it boil.

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