Sunday, May 04, 2008

Whatcha Gonna Stew?

Since I had very few activities on the calendar for this weekend, I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen for some serious cooking. After all, the farmers' market is due to reopen in a month, and I've still got a lot of pantry items to clean out!

Yesterday's chilly rain made me long for something warm and comforting, so I was glad that I had pulled bags of corn and squash from the freezer and soaked and cooked a couple cups of cranberry beans. These three ingredients make the traditional Native American trinity of the "Three Sisters," and I thought it would be entirely appropriate to combine them with Southwestern spices and organic amaranth.


I sautéed the last of my onion-garlic-hot pepper puree disks first, adding cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika, and salt to make a fragrant base for the dish. Then I added the corn, squash, and beans, a splash of homemade vegetable stock, the cooked amaranth, and the whole mixture simmered and bubbled for an hour or more while I worked on other projects. Before dishing it up, I added a sprinkling of dried cilantro flakes and let them spread their flavor throughout the mix.

I have to admit, it was tough for me to eat it for dinner –- not because it wasn't good, but because I am so sick of squash at this point that I really have to force it down. (Where are my greens? I want greens!!!) As long as I can control that reaction, though, I'll have something tasty and nutritious for lunches this week.

Today the sun shone brightly, but the air remained cooler than I had expected, making me very grateful that I had planned to make a small pot of the Chef Mother's vegetable soup. Her recipe is a very flexible one, allowing for whatever vegetables you might have on hand, not to mention whatever ethnic spice combinations tickle your fancy.


I stuck somewhat close to the original recipe, though I replaced the tomato juice with sauce and extra water, used some of my dried vegetables (cabbage and peas), omitted others, and tossed in the last handful of alphabet pasta from my cupboard. Even though this recipe doesn't call for sautéed onion and garlic to create a rich, aromatic base for the other vegetables, everything else adds such good flavor that you end up with a simple and satisfying soup. And with a toasted slice of the bread I made yesterday on the side, I had a good end-of-weekend supper.

Since my springtime produce cravings are starting to kick into high gear, it's sometimes very difficult to force myself to continue to eat from the freezer or the pantry. I keep reminding myself, though, that if I don't make the room now, I won't have enough room for this year's food preservation!

Eating from the pantry has also helped me avoid some of the sticker shock now becoming commonplace at the grocery store, and I've written an article for the Ethicurean on the topic. (It should be up later this week, so stay tuned!) It's times like this that make me very thankful I know how to put up a good supply of food for the winter -– and that I make the effort to do it as much as I can.

At this point, what else can I stew?

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