Italian Vegetable Stew

I bought a big pink cookbook by Linda Doeser called “100 Best Vegetarian Recipes” from Bookmans a few years ago.  I have yet to cook anything from it, mostly because the recipes are pretty intimidating.  I usually consult my trusty little green book, not this pink behemoth, but I felt like trying something new, so I thumbed through the main meals section and noticed myself drooling over the full size picture that accompanied the Italian Vegetable Stew recipe. We have a winner.

Doeser’s description is as follows, “In spite of the formidable list of ingredients, this flavorsome stew is very simple to make. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.”  There are only 307 calories per serving, which stands out quite a bit against the 600 or so calorie average I have seen elsewhere in this cookbook.  By the way, major kudos to her for listing nutritional information with every recipe, this is definitely not something you see very often.

 

Ingredients:

1 red onion, sliced

2 leeks, sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I substituted 4 tablespoons pre-minced garlic)

1 eggplant, sliced

1 small acorn squash, diced (I only used half)

1 small celery root, diced (I used 2 stalks)

2 turnips sliced (make ’em small!)

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 carrot, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced

1 fennel bulb, sliced

6 oz/175 g Swiss chard or spinach beet, chopped

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

pinch of dried thyme

pinch of dried oregano

pinch of sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

1 oz/25 g basil leaves, torn

4 tablespoons chopped parsley (I substituted Italian seasoning)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)

 

I am so glad I went to Sunflower Market to get these ingredients, I have never cooked with leeks, fennel, chard, or even something as simple as acorn squash or turnips.  The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable and the prices are extremely reasonable. I had to purchase all of these ingredients except for the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, sugar, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and Parmesan cheese, and it only cost $21.  They are also the only place in Phoenix I know of that carries Quorn products and I am totally hooked on their chicken nuggets, and you can’t go wrong with a bottle of Chardonnay for under $4 and delicious cookies for $3.50 that I snacked on while cooking.

They offered a variety of chard, all of which were Swiss, and organic. I decided to buy rainbow chard, because it was prettiest of the bunch. They also had red and green chard. Rainbow Chard

I was also very impressed by their selection of bell peppers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a perfect red bell pepper…this picture doesn’t do it much justice, but it was just the right shade of red, and it was nice and thick.

Red bell pepper

I eyeballed a half teaspoon of fennel seed with the assistance of an employee.  It only cost six cents.  The basil cost $1.88.  The chard was $1.50 for that bundle, and I only used half of it.

Here’s a shot of all the ingredients…I really can’t believe that only cost $21:

And a close up on the vegetables. I think I understand why a customer expressed a twinge of shopping cart envy at Sunflower. Do you blame her? Hey, you have an ingredient list, you can make this stew too!

This recipe may look intimidating, but to quote the Jackson 5, it’s as 1, 2, 3…literally. There are only three steps to this recipe.

 

1. Place the onions, leeks, garlic, eggplant, squash, celery root, turnips, tomatoes, carrot, zucchini, bell peppers, fennel, Swiss chart, bay leaves, fennel seeds, chili powder, thyme, oregano, sugar, olive oil, vegetable stock and basil leaves in a large pan.  Mix well and bring to a boil.

Notes:

-Chop the turnips as small as you can since they will take the longest to cook.

-I couldn’t exactly measure the chard, I just chopped up two leaves of it. I had two left over since they were sold in bunches of four.

-I used 12 basil leaves to estimate 1 ounce.

-My “pinches” ended up being three shakes of containers.

-I purchased a 32 ounce container of vegetable broth and used about 3/4ths of it. My stew is fairly soupy because of this.

 

2. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender.

30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time in my case. I let my stew simmer for an hour.

 

3. Sprinkle in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese.

 

Thoughts:

This is one of the best meals I’ve ever made, definitely try it.  As Doeser’s description said, it is formidable at times, but worth it.  I was intimidated when I bought ingredients I never worked with and had to Google how to prepare a leek and acorn squash.  I also held my breath as I initally thought I ruined my perfect meal by adding the full four tablespoons of Italian seasoning (or parsley if you have it), don’t worry, that’s how it’s supposed to go.  The Parmesan cheese helps thicken up the stew a bit.

Every bite tastes different and the stew has a nice sweet aftertaste that comes from the red bell pepper and fennel seed.  This would go great with a baked potato.

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