Wednesday, January 9, 2013

California Dreaming... of California Chickpea and Vegetable Stew

This stew lights up my day on those cold, dark winter days.  It's chock full of fresh vegetables and brothy, not the usual thick, heavy winter stew.  Just gives me that California Dreaming feeling.  Now, if only we could grow our veggies year round like they do!

 This recipe evolved from one I found in a cookbook called "The Great American Stewpot".  It's a quick and easy one to make your own...I've added many optional vegetable suggestions- if you have more ideas, let me know.  Don't let the list of ingredients scare you- they're just veggies full of goodness!

To serve 4 to 6...
2     tbsp vegetable oil
2     medium-size onions, sliced (half moon)
1     celery rib, sliced diagonally
1     small green bell pepper, sliced
1     garlic clove, minced
2     medium-size yellow squash or zucchini, scrubbed, ends trimmed, and sliced (half moon)
1     fennel bulb, sliced (half moon)- optional
1     cup green or yellow beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces and blanched- optional
1     carrot, peeled, blanched and sliced diagonally- optional
       fresh spinach to taste- roughly chopped and added at the end of the cooking time- optional 
2     cups dried chickpeas, cooked (should equal 4-5 cups cooked)
2     tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2     tbsp chili powder
1     tbsp fresh oregano, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1     tbsp fresh basil, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1     tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
4     large, ripe tomatoes, chopped and juices retained or 1 28-ounce can tomatoes, with juice
2     tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups tomato juice - may be optional

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over moderate heat, then add the onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic (and the optional blanched vegetables, if using) and cook, stirring, until softened- about two minutes.  

Add the squash and cook, stirring, an additional three minutes to soften.  Add the remaining ingredients, except the lemon juice, and stir well. 
Simmering the vegetables

 If using canned tomatoes, check the level of the liquid in the stew pot.  If there is enough liquid to cover the vegetables, hold off on the tomato juice.  Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, adding a little tomato juice if the stew begins to get too thick.  Add the lemon juice just before serving.  

Almost done!
Top your bowlful of stew with chunks of avocado or salsa (preferably homemade), or diced fresh tomato or... you get the idea!

Change up the beans by replacing the chickpeas with, say, kidney beans or leave the chickpeas and add different ones to the pot- black beans, adzuki beans, kidney beans (white or red), edamame,...

Take your stew south to Mexico be adding a little chipotle and adobo sauce, oregano, fresh cilantro instead of parsley, lime juice instead of lemon juice and any other Mexican flavourings you may have on hand.  

Take it to Greece or the Mediterranean by adjusting the seasonings- lemon juice, pitted olives, ...


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