Saturday, September 21, 2013

On This Last Day of Summer ...

On this last, cool, rainy day of summer, I'm bringing you something comforting to cook while the rain trickles down outside, but will still help you get through the bounty of late summer veggies that you couldn't resist buying at the market this morning.

It's nothing fancy, nothing celebratory, just some stew. But it's not rich, with a heavy gravy and loaded down with the starchy potatoes and and dried legumes of the winter. It's flavourful and summery, with just a hint of spice, perfect to pop into the oven and forget about for an hour while you curl up on the couch with a book, or have a quiet coffee in the late afternoon. It has the beautiful late summer harvest of beef steak tomatoes, so ripe and juicy that didn't need to add a drop of water or stock to this stew, some yellow summer squash, the last of the season, a juicy yellow pepper and some fresh, borloti beans that went wonderfully soft and creamy. Fresh herbs from my balcony garden, that won't last many more weeks, were both cooked into the stew and sprinkled on top, and the whole thing has just a whisper of middle eastern spice -- namely zaatar, cumin and tumeric. I happily ate bowls of this for dinner a few nights in a row, accompanied by tumeric scented brown rice and barley pilaf, but you don't to get that involved. Simple brown rice or white rice would be perfect, as would a chunk of crusty bread, or even some short pasta.

This stew was inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant called Nuba in Vancouver. It was called simply the vegan stew, and was described as a stew of seasonal vegetables with tomatoes, onions and chickpeasm served over brown rice. It had creamy roasted eggplant and zucchini and a delicious, rich spice blend. Nuba was the first place we ate out at in Vancouver, and it was a beautiful treat -- delicious food, relaxed atmosphere, and the excitement that our vacation had just begun.

Our Vancouver trip is long gone, and I've gotten into the groove of teaching again, but every once in a while, I'll indulge in a little daydreaming of times past. This stew is beautiful, rainy day indulgence and the perfect way to good-bye to summer.

Last Day of Summer Stew
inspired by Nuba and Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic
2 large, beefsteak tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 yellow summer squash, cut into half-moons
1 large yellow pepper, cut into thick strips
1 quart of fresh borloti beans, shelled and rinsed
1 teaspoon of zaatar spice blend
1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground tumeric
2 large sprigs of fresh thyme
5-6 basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 small handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. In an oven-proof pot, or dutch oven, gently heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and garlic and some salt and pepper. Let them sweat for about 5 minutes, while you chop the rest of your vegetables.

2. When the onions are soft, add in the zaatar, tumeric and cumin and let the spices toast for about a minutes. Add in your tomatoes and give it a big stir.

3. After about 4 minutes or so, the tomatoes should have released their wonderful juices.  Add the squash, peppers, beans and thyme sprigs.  Pop the lid on and put the whole thing a 375 degree oven for about an hour (but check at the 45 minute mark to see if your beans are tender, or if you need to add liquid).

4. When you're about to serve, sprinkle with the basil and parsley.

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