Summer Stew

22 Aug

Perfect Bright Summer FlavoursWow, today was such a lovely day! Lunch at Le Pain Quotidien – perfect tart lemonade with loads of mint, and a gorgeous open face sandwich of fresh ricotta, mission figs, cracked black pepper, honey and chopped tomatoes. I know, it doesnt sound like it would all go, but oh boy, did it! Superb. And then home, and loads and loads of cooking. Dinner was a cold potato salad – roasted garlic and baby tomatoes, mixed as soon as they came out the oven with a few tablespoons of mayo. SO good. And summer stew – the best, brightest and tastiest of the summer veg, stewed briefly together, served with some rice. Vegan, and delicious. And for dessert, a strawberry fool – those gorgeous strawberries I bought yesterday, macerated with a bit of balsamico, and then folded into lightly whipped cream which had been sweetened just a bit, and flavoured with a bit of vanilla. Actually, it turned out to be an Eton Mess, because we also had some store bought meringue which we crumbled over the top. So bloody good!

And then of course, I had to do some prep cooking for M’s birthday tomorrow. I have decided that since it is summertime, I am not going to bother with huge numbers of hot dishes. Most everything can be served cold or at room temperature. Tonight I made broccolini with toasted almonds and a bright lemon olive oil dressing. Roasted butternut which will go into an arugula salad with a few shavings of parmesan. The stuffing for the mushroom pastry. The pudding for the chocolate cake. My feet hurt! And its late. But at least tomorrow, I can bake the cake in the morning, and do the mushroom pastry in the afternoon, and assemble all the salads in between, without having to worry I dont have enough time. Plus, we are planning on going to the farmer’s market! I cant wait! That should be wonderful fun.

So now, back to this summer stew. These are a few of the beautiful vegetables I found at Whole Foods. I didnt want to over cook them, as their bright clean flavours were just too delicate. Also, to be honest, I only put a tiny bit of flavouring into this stew – I wanted the veggies to perfume the gravy with their own fragrance, and I felt it really didnt need any additional enhancement. Please go to the market and see what is bright and fresh and tasty. Use that. If you dont see a squash, but there is a wonderful array of carrots, substitute! This stew is about using whats best in the summertime, and celebrating it. Enjoy!

Serves about 6 – 8

  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large (or 2 small) aubergines (eggplant), washed, sliced and chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, halved and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, halved and chopped
  • 1/2 butternut, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 2 ripe large heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 cup water
  • 1 package firm seasoned tofu, chopped roughly
  • Large handful baby spinach, washed well

In a large pan, over high heat, in about 2 tbsp olive oil, saute the onion until glossy and softened. Add the aubergine, and sautee until the aubergine starts to brown and burn a bit. Season with paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the yellow zucchini squash and zucchini to the pan, and sautee until slightly softened. You may need to add more olive oil.

Add the butternut, and combine well. You may want to put a lid on the pan to soften the butternut a bit, but I usually just let all the ingredients bubble and saute for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, and encourage the sauce that will start to form with the addition of some hot water. I usually add about 1/2 cup, and let the stew cook for about 5 minutes, and then check the butternut. If it needs more time, I add more water. Let cook and meld together for about 10 – 15 minutes, and taste and adjust seasonings.

Dont overcook. This is a delicate stew, and you want to really allow the clean fresh flavours of the vegetables to remain intact.

Add the tofu and baby spinach, and cook just until the spinach is wilted.

Serve warm over jasmine rice.

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