Flexible, Delicious Spicy (or not) Veggie Stew
This is a really nice vegetarian, actually vegan, recipe I found years ago in the Boston Globe. But you don’t have to be ovo-lacto to enjoy this casserole. It makes a hearty, delicious dinner for anyone who likes to eat.
You can serve this with rice or couscous, or Italian bread and a salad. For those of you carb-adverse folk, you can skip the bread or couscous, and just serve the salad. Though something in me cries out for bread with a warm, yummy stew.
I’ve found that you can change the vegetables in here without much difficulty. I have left out the zucchini (more like forgotten) on occasion. You can add more (or different) beans, and it tastes the same. Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, any can of plain old beans you have in your cupboard (no baked beans or chili, of course) will work in this casserole. Also, you can change the squash to two cups of Idaho potatoes, if you can’t find (or don’t like) butternut squash. However, be sure to cut the potato into big chunks, and don’t cook it too long, or it will go to mashed potatoes.
Wine-wise, this earthy casserole probably needs a big red that can stand up to it. But I think I might like a chardonnay, which is white, and would be served cold. My wine knowledge isn’t extensive, it just struck me that the chardonnay might taste good. It depends on the weather. On a cold day, I’d definitely want a red. Suit yourself. Educate your palate. Don’t serve wine a box, and you’ll do okay.
Time management. This recipe does have a fair amount of prep time, just because of the vegetable peeling and chopping, but then it goes together quickly. Give yourself 45 minutes to get dinner on the table, though you may be finished earlier than that especially if you buy pre-chopped onions and squash.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped. Remember, garlic comes in a bulb, like a tulip bulb, which is naturally divided into cloves. To get the papery covering off the garlic clove, turn a knife blade on its side, put it on the clove and smash down. Actually, if you love garlic, you can add two or three cloves to this casserole. As I said, this casserole is flexible.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups diced butternut squash (or Idaho potato, or one cup of each). Butternut squash can be found pre-diced, but check the date, and get the package from the back of the case. I’ve unfortunately bought spoiled, slimy squash. Ick!! It’s best (freshest and cheapest) to buy a whole squash and chop it up yourself. You want a squash with a long neck and a small bulbous part at the end. Slice it into roughly half-inch thick circles, peel the circles and then cut up the squash into chunks.
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 small (8 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
Season with: Salt to taste (I add about a teaspoon then check before I serve, adding more if needed), 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. (If you increase the crushed red pepper to 1/2 a teaspoon you’ll have a pretty spicy dish. My friend from Texas loved it this spicy, my husband from Wisconsin wouldn’t eat it. Judge for yourself.)
1 cup vegetable stock (canned or boxed). I like the boxed stock because it’s resealable and then stores in the fridge. Cans don’t reseal well.
1 small zucchini or other summer squash, sliced
1/2 cup canned chick peas, drained. Chick peas are also called garbanzo beans. If you can’t find chick peas, look for garbanzos.
In a 3-quart or larger saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook them until soft, but don’t let them brown, this takes only a minute or two. Onions and garlic go from soft and perfect to burned and ruined in no time! Don’t leave the pan!
Next, add the carrots, butternut squash (and/or potatoes), seasonings, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes; check often, you don’t want to cook the veggies to mushiness.
Add the zucchini and chick peas and stir gently. Put the top back on the pan and cook for about 3 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Now, fix your couscous by package directions (it takes five minutes) and pull together a salad.
Or slice up some lovely crusty bread and don’t worry about the couscous.
And invite me to join you!