February 16, 2008

Tuscan stew

As I write this, there is a serious glut of snow and frozen snow outside. I can't even begin to tell you just how much snow there is, but it's ridiculous. I know the skiers are thrilled, and it's pretty, but enough is enough. There's lots more on the way and it's too cold. The only thing to do is make soup.

I'm going to give you the "actual" recipe and tell you what I changed. It's really an ideal soup to make in the summer, but it's hearty enough to enjoy on a wintry day as well. With a couple of substitutions, it works as a satisfying meal on a cold, and I mean really cold, winter evening. The recipe calls for a medium zucchini for which I substituted a white turnip, and swiss chard for which I substituted bok choy. I also think escarole or spinach would be a good choice for the chard. (I'm not a big fan of chard, but if this were summer and we had some in our CSA box, I would have used it.) There are also sprigs of fresh rosemary, but if you don't have any, used dried. For the bread, I used a 100% whole wheat baguette from Whole Foods. It was just the right combination of crusty and chewy, but it wasn't stale. I didn't have stock on hand so I used water and miso.

Tuscan Stew
4 to 6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, 1/2 inch dice
2 medium carrots, 1/2 inch dice
1 medium zucchini, sliced (or turnip, 1/2 inch dice)
2 sprigs rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup red wine
1 can diced tomatoes (use fresh tomatoes in the summer)
1 can small white beans
4 cups torn stale crusty bread
chopped swiss chard (or other green like bok choy or escarole)
6 cups stock (or water)
2 level tablespoons red miso (or salt to taste)
olive oil
In a large stock pot (5-6 quarts), saute for a few minutes in 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, carrot, zucchini (or turnip) until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the wine and cook 8 minutes. Add the tomato and stock (or water). Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer. If you are using water, put 2 tablespoons miso in a small measuring cup and add a small amount of hot liquid from the pot. Stir to dissolve the miso in the cup then add to the pot. If you are using stock, you may need less miso so taste the soup before dissolving the miso and adding to the pot. Stir in the chopped greens, bread, beans and rosemary. You can add cayenne if you like your stew spicy. Grind fresh pepper over individual bowls.
p.s. I had this soup reheated for lunch the next day at work, and it tasted even better. It was rich and satisfying.We loved this stew so much we made it twice in one week. The second time, I had my husband make it to "test" the recipe. Because this blog is geared towards fast and easy cooking, I usually use canned beans and such. But cooking beans from scratch results in a richer dish, and while it takes a little more time, it's not really hard. Here's a speedy "no-soak" method for cooking beans. Put one cup of washed beans in the pressure cooker with eight cups of water and bring it to pressure. This takes about ten minutes. Turn it off and let the pressure come down natually. This also takes about 10 minutes. Drain the beans and add eight new cups of cold water. Bring to pressure and cook about 10 minutes. When the pressure comes down, skim out the beans and measure the liquid to have the six cups needed for the recipe. Add more water if needed. Proceed with the rest of the recipe. My husband seasoned the resulting stew with 1/2 teaspoon of salt (add more or less according to taste) instead of miso. He also used a stale loaf of unbleached white sourdough baguette from Trader Joe's. Another great stew.

Now a little caveat. I was attempting to double check the cooking times for pressure cooking the beans so I could be accurate, but around the same time, I received the news that my first little grandchild, a beautiful little girl, had just been born in Seattle. Amidst all the excitement, phone calls, video chats and emails, I kind of lost control of the timing thing. I think I'm close, based on experience, but please forgive me if I've erred! I'll try again in the near future and correct the recipe if needed. In any case, this proves that cooking beans can be easy and requires minimal attention!

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