18 May, 2010

Butternut Squash Stew with Heirloom Tomato Grilled Cheese and a Fresh Cilantro Salad

I know, I know, it's the wrong season entirely for a winter squash stew. But I thought I'd get this new home for my recipes off on the right foot. So here we are, one of my husband's favorites of my inventions and one of my most requested recipes. Mike's very much a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I'm a life long vegetarian with an unyielding love of curries and adventure, so you'd think that dinner might be an issue of contention. Not with this dish! And if you start with a meal like this, you can move onward to more exciting flavors and unusual names. But for the beginning food enthusiast, a nice warm bowl of savory stew and a sandwich is an excellent dinner. Or even lunch. Or leftover. Or, well... anytime.

Shopping List
  1. 1 butternut squash
  2. 1 can kidney beans
  3. 2 small russet potatoes
  4. 3 oranges
  5. fresh rosemary
  6. parmesan cheese
  7. sour cream
  8. parmesan cheese rind
  9. whole grain bread
  10. 1 heirloom tomato
  11. sharp cheddar cheese
  12. baby spinach
  13. arugula
  14. 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  15. 1 avocado
  16. slivered almonds
Now, to pick the ingredients at the store.
To choose a squash, the best you can really do is to find one that isn't too beat up. Sometimes you'll see that the butternut squash has had chunks taken out by being knocked around. Try to get one as undamaged as possible, and for this recipe you'll want one about the size of a loaf of bread.

When picking your beans, check the ingredients. Amazingly, most canned beans have all sorts of stuff that isn't beans. So if the ingredient list is long, pass up those beans in favor of some that have a shorter list. Ideally, the only ingredients in your beans will be beans and water.

For your spinach, cilantro, and arugula, find a bunch of greens that aren't wilting or gummy. gummy means rotten, and you want your greens fresh and crisp.

Picking avocados can be hard- you need to find one that's slightly soft when you squeeze it gently, but not so soft that it's all mush and rot on the inside. Squeeze a few, and if you can dent it gently, it's ripe.

Most difficult of all... a parmesan rind? Now to be fair, you can just leave this out. It won't damage the flavor very terribly. but you can find one at any grocery store that has a good cheese counter- any Whole Foods will carry them, even if they don't have it out. Simply ask the nice cheese man behind the counter for one. 2" inches of rind will suffice, and the more you put in the richer the flavor of the stew will be. Like garlic and chocolate, you can pretty much never have too much parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash Stew
skin and seeded the squash, and chop it into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
3-5 T minced garlic
3 tbs olive oil
rinse the can of kidney beans
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
3 c water
Juice two of the oranges and zest the peels- reserve 1/2 T of the juice for the salad
1/2 tbs fresh rosemary, or 2 tsp dried ground rosemary
1 tbs Spike or Mrs. Dash
salt and black pepper
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
sour cream, for garnish

In a large pot over med. high heat, sauté the onions in the oil until they become translucent. Add the garlic, orange zest, and spices and stir occasionally for three minutes.

Add the squash, potatoes, water, and orange juice and mix well. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the stew to simmer gently for half an hour.

Add beans and parmesan rind, and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

During this time, you're ready to make the rest of the meal.

Fresh Cilantro Salad
baby spinach
fresh cilantro
heirloom tomato
1 avocado
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/2 T orange juice- reserved from stew preparation

Rinse your greens THOROUGHLY. I always try to use local and organic greens, which reduces the likelihood of contaminants like E Coli, but there's going to be dirt on them. They do come from the ground. So rinse your greens!

The baby spinach and arugula can go in whole. The idea of salad greens is to get them to a size where you can easily put it into your mouth, so if your arugula or spinach is of a larger leaf, tear it down to size. Tearing instead of chopping your greens will keep them crisp longer.

Slice as much as half of the heirloom tomato- as much as you need to have two VERY thin slices per sandwich- and set those aside. Chop the rest of the tomato into 1/2" squares, and toss into the salad.

Cube the avocado, and toss the pieces in the reserved orange juice. This will keep them from browning while you finish the meal. Toss the avocado into the salad.

Mince the cilantro, and toss into the salad. You will, however, want to reserve about a teaspoon for the salad dressing.

Add the almonds, and set aside the salad to prepare the sandwiches and dressing.

Heirloom Tomato Grilled Cheese
I like to use a grill pan for my grilled cheese. Your sandwiches are less likely to stick to the pan, and who doesn't love the look of those grill lines on their food? You will want to pre-heat the pan, so set it on the stove and turn the heat to med. high. There is usually no need to grease your pan, but if you're using something fancy like Le Creuset cookware, you will need to be careful to grease it a little. Some pans can be damaged by inadequate greasing.

For each sandwich, you will need two slices of that tomato, enough sliced cheese to cover the bread plus a little extra, and two slices of whole grain bread.

Assemble a sandwich by first covering one piece of bread with cheese, then with the sliced tomato, and then with just enough extra cheese to cover about half of each slice of tomato. Put the second piece of bread on, and put it onto the pan. While it cooks, about three minutes on each side, you will make the salad dressing.

Orange Vinaigrette
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
juice of the third orange
reserved chopped cilantro
pinch of salt

In a small bowl, all ingredients together.

By the time you have finished this, your whole meal will be ready. And like magic, it will all be ready at once.

After serving the stew, garnish with a sprinkle of extra parmesan cheese and a LARGE dollop of sour cream- as much as a 3 T. As the sour cream mixes in with the stew bite by bite, it will enrich the flavor.

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