Giving thanks for the great gift of community
What are you thankful for? A moment of reflection might produce a litany of persons, provisions and experiences. I find I immediately place the word most in front of thankful, and my mind sets to work attempting to order my appreciation in some linear pattern — greater to lesser, closer to farther. Like trying to stuff a turkey with a duck with a chicken with sausage … it is unnecessary. (If, however, you are tempted to try: Debone everything sans turkey, salt and season everything well at least one hour before stuffing, and use herbs, herbs, herbs.)
But I do have a “most thankful” list, which includes “the great gift of community.” In Christian community we are tempered and refined, our spiritual gifts and corporal muscles are honed, and we are allowed to witness the strengths, needs and wisdom of others in ways exclusivity might not reveal. We are given a bigger picture, which may help us to remember how beautiful we each are. By faith and tradition given to us by all the saints and holy souls who have gone before us, we are called to gather together, love and acknowledge one another with reverence and dignity, and live in communion with, in and through Christ — the greatest community.
I am thankful for everything, most of the time. I have a secret weapon. I routinely petition the help of holy souls and a select cadre of heaven, and they aid and buoy me in persevering in faith and joy. Relying on this holy help reminds us that we are never alone. This holy help nurtures gratitude, which helps us seek and offer forgiveness, which helps us grow in fortitude. It makes us builders of community, which can lead to abiding joy.
Beginning with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and leading up to the feast of Christ the King, November offers us a natural opportunity to prioritize the relationships and community we have in Jesus, the saints and all holy souls. Within this spiritual sandwich of a month, I offer a traditional pairing of fresh sausage, creamy white beans and kale, simmered together in a salubrious soup, to comfort, nourish and help gather together. Happy eating!
Sausage, white bean and kale soup
1 pound fresh Italian-style sausage, removed from casing
2 large onions, halved, sliced stem to stern in ¼-inch wedges
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise in ¼-inch half moons
3 ribs celery, sliced crosswise in ¼-inch half moons
7 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh sage, leaves removed and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 to 5 fat cloves of garlic, minced (or tablespoon of minced jar garlic)
7 to 8 cups organic chicken stock (or broth or vegetable stock)
2 cans prepared organic northern white beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 cup dried northern white beans, soaked overnight and prepared for soup)
1 large bunch kale, washed, stems removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
kosher or flake sea salt
fresh cracked or ground black pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy-bottomed pot over medium to medium-high heat. Cook sausage until lightly browned, breaking into smaller pieces and crumbles with a wooden spoon, 7 to 9 minutes. Using metal spoon, transfer to bowl, leaving fat in pot. Add onion, carrot and celery to fat in pot and cook for 7 to 9 minutes or until mirepoix begins to soften, stirring occasionally. Add 2 good pinches of salt and pepper, garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping up bits from bottom. Turn the heat to high and add chicken stock and prepared beans. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer partially covered for 15 to 20 minutes, skimming once or twice extraneous foam and fat from top. Turn off heat and add kale, stirring to incorporate. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. With lid removed, let steep for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve with lashings of grated pecorino and parsley.
Substitute sweet potatoes, butternut or kabocha squash for white beans. Try other smoked or fresh sausages and/or other hearty greens. Include other vegetables like zucchini.
Northwest Catholic - November 2018