Two things I love about coming back home at night: The lights already on as if to say, “Hey, welcome back, how’d it go today?” and supper a-simmer on the stove, filling the kitchen with spicy warmth. This chicken stew? It’s great to come home to. For Weight Watchers, just 4 points.
UPDATE on LAST WEEK'S COLUMN: Many of you wanted to know more about my friend Ann's success losing weight by combining Weight Watchers and Michael Pollan. She's answered your questions, just scroll down to the bottom of Weight Watchers, Meet Michael Pollan.
Call me amazed that even after six years – six full years! – of learning and writing about vegetables for A Veggie Venture, I’m still learning! It is STILL an adventure, still big fun.
Many of my newest lessons are a side benefit of a new vegetable delivery service, Neighborgood Foods. It’s not a CSA, per se, since John and Andria aren’t themselves growers. Instead, they are good marketeers who have built a CSA-style service that meets the desires and demands of health-conscious families. They’re good people, if you’re in their delivery areas in St. Louis, I’d recommend a look-see.
Now for those lessons.
SIZE Size matters! If you want vegetables to disappear into a soup or stew, cut them into tiny pieces. If you want the vegetables to be identifiable – I’ve learned, I do – leave them in large pieces.
CARROTS To peel or not to peel? That’s always the question with carrots, isn’t it? I have mixed luck leaving carrots unpeeled. It works better when the carrots are extra-fresh (think just-picked, less than a week out of the ground) and still have their tops on, much less well with the standard supermarket variety of bagged carrots. As always, I recommend purchasing whole carrots for cooking. “Baby” carrots aren’t what they seem, just carrot bullets manufactured from large carrots. And you know how “wet” and bland the so-called baby carrots are? If you haven’t tasted a real carrot in awhile, I recommend it.
KALE I always kinda-sorta thought of leafy greens as interchangeable. But recently, after once-too-often substituting leafy spinach for kale, I have learned that kale is just something really special for stirring into hot soups and stews, though only at the end, just before serving. How can something like kale, a “bitter green” (have you seen my post on What Are Bitter Greens?), turn so soft and sweet? It’s worth the extra few minutes. Trader Joe’s sells bags of chopped frozen kale but I’m not a fan, the heavy stems need to be cut off anyway, making it way less convenient.
AND NOW A QUESTION I love the cookbook this Hearty Healthy Chicken Stew recipe is inspired by but wish that unusual techniques were explained. Does anyone know why recipes would specify adding a little salt to the pot when cooking the onions?
HEARTY HEALTHY CHICKEN STEW
with CHICKPEAS & KALE
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 10 cups
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut in large pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 carrots, cut in large pieces (see TIPS)
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 cups water
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans or frozen green beans (if frozen, it helps to thaw the beans at least 15 minutes)
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 3 ounces kale, washed well, heavy stems removed, leaves cut into ribbons (about 4 cups)
In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat until shimmery. Stir in onion and salt (see QUESTION), cook just until the onion is turning golden. Stir in tomatoes and garlic, cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in carrots, chicken, cumin, ginger and water.
Leave uncovered, bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let simmer for 2 hours to concentrate the flavors.
BEFORE SERVING (During this last step, you’ll adjust the temperature several times, increasing it to bring the soup back to a boil, then reducing it to simmer gently for cooking.) Stir in chicken stock and return soup to a boil. Stir in green beans and chickpeas, return to a boil, then let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in kale, return to a boil, then let simmer about 10 minutes or until beans and kale are fully cooked.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy! Reheats beautifully.
Their cookbook was recommended by a reader a few years ago, she thought we had similar cooking styles. Boy, was she right, so many recipes marked to make! It has a wintry feel, perfect for cold-weather cooking.
Chapter titles match real life, like “When You’re in a Rush” and “Dishes We Make All the Time” and “Good Enough for Company”. This recipe comes from “Simmering Pots”. Can’t you smell the chicken and spices simmering now?
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