Winter comfort food, a low-calorie, spice-rich vegetable stew made with butternut squash and carrots. Perfect for simmering atop the stove or in a slow cooker.
“Feast with friends. Fast in solitude.” ~ Olga, a cooking instructor in Kansas City
Last January, book club was scheduled for my house. (Other book clubs may be interested in my reading group's book list.) I planned a winter menu that finished with a feast-suitable squash and pear pie. By the morning-of, however, the weather was iffy with ice so, just in case, I switched to a still-festive squash and goat cheese pizza that could be made at the last minute. Once the roads turned dire, we cancelled book club. So much for feasting with friends!
But happy accident! I went looking for winter comfort food, vegetarian but substantial, low in calories but full of flavor. Enter this gorgeous vegan (but don’t tell!) stew, perfect for post-holiday dieters, perfect for ‘fasting in solitude’.
Still, doesn’t ‘fasting’ imply fastidiousness, a tediousness, a plainness, a spareness, a certain blandness? Trust me, there’s nothing ‘bland’ about this stew. The color is enlivening. The spices meld together, creating a whole new flavor set. We just might be forced to share.
SQUASH & CARROT STEW
Time to table: 4 - 5 hours
Makes about 10 cups but easily halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon – each, yes each! – ground pepper, coriander, cumin, turmeric and ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon Thai green curry paste (see TIPS), stirred into a tablespoon of water
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 butternut squash (about 2-1/2 pounds), trimmed, peeled (see TIPS) and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound carrots, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (key ingredient, try not to skip)
STOVETOP In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat til shimmery. Add onion and garlic, toss to coat with oil, then cook til turning gold, stirring occasionally. Stir in paprika, salt, spices and green curry paste mixture, let cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, squash, carrots and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer, cover and simmer for 3 – 4 hours until vegetables are fully cooked and liquid has slightly thickened.
SLOW COOKER In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat until shimmery. Add onion and garlic, toss to coat with oil, then cook til turning gold, stirring occasionally. Stir in paprika, salt, spices and green curry paste mixture, let cook 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a slow cooker. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, squash, carrots and water. Cook on low for about 7 hours.
TO SERVE Spoon stew into individual serving bowls. Stir in cilantro and mint, then a spoonful of something creamy like Greek yogurt, sour cream, even mashed potatoes. Serve immediately. Keeps for several days.
More Hearty Vegetarian Fare
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