No Recipe Vegetable Sauce

If you take a look at my fridge or kitchen counter right now you’ll find odds and ends of lingering summer veggies. Green tomatoes on their way to ripening, a couple of Japanese eggplants, all kinds of peppers, mixes of herbs in jars of water and other remnants.

I’m sad to pull be cleaning out the garden – though the bursts of warm temps are surprisingly keeping the peppers and eggplant going, if not at a bit slower of a pace. And I’m still seeing many of these items still at market – but probably not for too much longer now.

Though they might not be in their prime anymore, that certainly doesn’t stop me from finding a use for them. You could should try the ratatouille, or you could do something even easier – just cook everything down in a big saute pot.

Yeah, that’s right. With some tomatoes in there to release their juices (don’t be afraid to use the green ones for a completely different, but still delicious flavor), it doesn’t take long for everything to break down and transform into one awesome vegetable sauce. Just start with some onions and garlic in oil. Add in whatever veggies you have. Season. Toss in some chopped herbs towards the end of cooking. And when it looks sauce-like, use however you want. If it still needs a little flavor, add a splash of vinegar, another pinch of salt, or a few more herbs.

Toss with pasta, fill up tacos, cover a pizza, serve over your favorite grain or just eat it plain. I’ve even freezed sauces like this with some success.

Whatever you do, just don’t let the last of those summer flavors go to waste!

Classic Beef Stew

Growing up, beef stew was a staple in my mom’s cooking. I knew we were having it for dinner the moment I walked in the door. It’s one of those dishes that fills the house up with warm, comforting flavors. Often, she’d cook it in her slow cooker – allowing it to be a practical dish even on the busiest of weeknights.

But it’s also perfect for weekend cooking or entertaining. And even if it’s just yourself you’re cooking for, you’ll get several dinners out of the stew, making it worthwhile at any time.

Chuck roast, from the shoulder of the cow, is an ideal cut for stew. It’s economical and full of connective tissue that will break down during a slow cook and make the pieces of meat super tender. It’s just matter of cooking until the meat reaches that point of tenderness.

Start with a 2-3 pound piece of chuck. Trim the outer layer of fat then cut into one inch cubes.

Sear (brown) the meat in a large dutch oven or pot by heating a small amount of canola oil in the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat. For a good sear you will have to do a couple of batches. Just do one layer of meat at a time and be sure not to crowd the pan. Brown 2-3 minutes per side. You’re just looking to brown the meat, not cook it through at this point. When done, remove the meat from the pot.

Add in another small splash of oil then the vegetables. Use 3 cups of your choice of sliced veggies. Onions and carrots are the standard. I add in potatoes and mushrooms if I have them, or roots like turnips and rutabaga. Your call. Just cook until browned and almost tender. Season with minced garlic, dried thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf.

When done, return the meat to the pan. Now it’s time to deglaze the pot. That means scraping up the brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot with liquid. Red or white wine, cider or beer add some great flavor. But if you just have broth or even water – that will do the job. Just add the liquid in and gently scrape the pot with a wooden spoon.

Add in the tomatoes, broth and extra liquid, if needed, to make sure everything is covered.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let the stew stew for about an hour before checking the tenderness of the meat. If still chewy, continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until ready.

If the stew looks too thin you can uncover the pot in the last 1/2 hour or so of cooking to let some of the liquid evaporate. Or, if you’d like to thicken it up even more, remove a cup of liquid from the pot and whisk in two tablespoons flour. When completely blended, stir back into the pot and cook another few minutes.

If making in the slow cooker: Follow steps 1-4 as written, then transfer everything to the slow cooker. Cook on low 4-6 hours.

Classic Beef Stew

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6-8

Ingredients

  • Canola oil
  • 2-3lb chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups sliced veggies such as onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, or potato
  • 1/2 cup deglazing liquid such as wine, beer, cider or broth
  • 4 cups beef stock or broth
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour (optional)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.
  2. Sear the chuck, in a single layer, in batches, without crowding 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan when browned but not cooked through.
  3. Add in the veggies with another tablespoon oil. Brown and cook until just slightly tender, 5 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf.
  4. Return the meat to the pot and deglaze with your liquid of choice.
  5. Pour in the broth, and some water if needed, to cover everything in the pot with liquid.
  6. Bring a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low to bring the stew to a simmer. Cover and cook for about an hour.
  7. Check the tenderness of the meat. If not yet done, cover and continue cooking, checking every 15 minutes until to your liking.
  8. If you’d like to thicken the stew, remove a cup of the stew liquid and whisk in 2 tablespoons flour. Stir back into the pot and cook another 5 minutes.
  9. Taste, adding salt, if necessary, or a splash of apple cider vinegar, for some extra flavor.
  10. To serve, remove the bay leaf and top with the chopped parsley, if desired.

Beet Hummus

beets

Beet Hummus
courtesy of Kathy Gunst

Ingredients:
2 cooked beets, peeled, 8 ounces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons tahini
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon za’tar*

Instructions:
In the container of a food processor blend all the ingredients until just about smooth; the hummus will be a bit chunky. Taste for seasoning. Makes about 2 cups. Will keep covered in the refrigerator for several days.

*Za’tar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that (generally) combines sumac, sesame seeds, thyme, salt and often oregano and marjoram and savory. There are as many spellings of the Middle Eastern spice blend as there are varieties: za’atar, zaatar, za’tar, zatar, zatr, zattr, zahatar, zaktar or satar.

Kale and Bean Stew

I’ve been enjoying this recipe for years! It is a hearty and delicious vegetarian stew that can easily be the star of the table!

Kale

Cannellini and Kale Ragoût
courtesy of Epicurious.com

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 1 1/2-inch-thick slices Italian bread, crusts removed, each slice quartered
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tea
spoon dried crushed red pepper
5 cups (packed) thinly sliced kale (about 1 large bunch)
1 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion in juice
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), drained

preparation

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bread and 1 teaspoon thyme; cook until bread is golden on both sides, turning with tongs, about 2 minutes total. Transfer croutons to bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add remaining 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper to same pot; sauté over medium heat 30 seconds. Add kale and broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, beans, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle ragout into shallow bowls. Top with croutons and serve.