This soup has simple, rustic flavors and can fill you with even a small bowl, although no one ever wants just a small bowl . . .
You will need: a large fall squash, garbanzo beans, ground sausage, an onion, several cloves of garlic, and chicken or vegetable broth.
Step 1. Soak the beans.
Side Note: Sometimes I will just go ahead and begin soaking beans, before I know what I will make with them. If you cook regularly, it never hurts to have beans on hand, ready to go. However, don't soak the beans for more than around three days. They may start to get gross and rot.
Another option is to soak the beans for two or three days, then drain the water. Leave them without water for about eight hours and rinse them. Do this about every eight hours, and the beans will begin to sprout after a couple days. Sprouted beans can be eaten raw, baked, or stewed. They are said to be better for you than unsprouted beans.
If you are using canned beans, drain the water out, no need for soaking in advance. Keep in mind, this will decrease the total cooking time, as these beans are already on the verge of mushy . . . Change the order of the recipe, and add these last!
Step 2. Prepare the squash.
Wash the outside of the squash. Cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds and stringyness, just like you are making a jack-o-lantern. (You can save the seeds for crafts, if you rinse them clean and dry them immediately.)
Cut up the squash into small manageable chunks. Place these chunks into a casserole-size baking dish and put about an inch of water, with tin foil over the dish. (I've done this in many different ways, chunks with skin side up, skin side down, or even without cutting the chunks, and just cooking the squash halves. They all work, and will cook the squash, but for soups, the chunks are easier to manage.)
Cook this between 350 and 400 degrees until the squash will allow a fork to go through without much effort. This usually takes about an hour, depending on the thickness of the pieces. You don't want the squash to get mushy. (If you overcook the squash, the soup can be salvaged, but the soup will become more of a squash puree, than delicious bite-sized pieces of rustic fall flavor.)
Peel or scrape the skin off of the chunks and disgard or compost it. Drain the water, and store the squash in the fridge, if you don't plan to finish the soup the same day. Otherwise, go on to the next step.
Step 3. Cook the sausage.
While the previous steps could all be done in advance of the actual soup making, this step should be saved until the day you want to actually eat the soup.
If you are a crock-pot cooker, use a skillet to pre-cook the meat as explained below, so that it will be mostly cooked before adding it to your crock-pot.
If you will not be using a crock-pot, pull out your large stew-pot. Slice the onions and peel the garlic. Turn on the heat under the stew-pot, to about medium. Put just a little oil in the pot, and allow it to get hot. (Careful not to burn your oil, if it smokes, it is burning.) Put in the onions now and stir them around until they're covered in oil.
Cook the onions until they are about half-way to carmelizing, and add the minced or cut-up garlic. Allow that to cook for just a minute, and add the ground meat. (If you are using a sausage instead, cut it into coins or half-coins.) Add a little salt and pepper. (If you are using canned beans later, they are probably salted, so you can skip or reduce the salt at this step.)
Stir the meat, allowing it to blend in with the onions and garlic, and allowing it to distribute the heat throughout, so that your meat will cook evenly. You'll want the meat to be about three/quarters completely cooked, so that you don't end up with any raw bits of meat in the finished soup.
At this point, you may have little brown bits sticking to the bottom of your stew pot. Those brown bits are called flavor. Pour a little chicken broth in, to help you loosen anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Step 5. Add all the ingredients.
If you are using a stew pot, then your meat is already in the pot. Add the drained beans and enough chicken broth to cover. (If you are using canned beans, do not add them now.) Cook on Medium to Medium High. Allow the beans to cook until they become soft. (Note, dried beans do not always become as soft as you may be used to from canned beans. The fresher the dried bean is, the easier it will be to cook it till soft. If your beans are not getting soft after more than an hour or two, they are probably still edible, but were not fresh.)
Add the cooked, peeled squash to the soup. If using canned beans, add them now. Make sure you still have enough broth to cover all ingredients, adding more if necessary.
Turn the heat down to Medium and allow this to simmer for about half an hour. Taste the soup. Does it need anything? More salt? Perhaps a packet of Sazon or some fresh basil? If you want a kick, try some cayenne pepper!
Why have I not listed measurements?
There's nothing wrong with folks who measure. This is simply a skill I wanted to learn, to be able to cook on the fly. (I picture cow-boy cooks, out on the prarie, cooking on an open fire, using what ever they happened to have. They sure didn't want to dirty up a measuring cup unless they had to!)
Developing this skill has allowed me to be more creative with my meals, substituting this or that and creating masterpieces from the last few items in the pantry. Give it a try sometime! But be prepared to eat a lot of ill-flavored food!