For most of my life, I have hated soups, stews, and chilis. I hated their very soupiness, the fact that everything kinda tastes the same in them, the fact that they are neither entirely liquid (drink) or solid (food). But I love curries. And in some cookbook I read once, the author called curries "Indian stews." I realized I'm just stubborn, and it's all about the flavor of the soup/stew, not the name. So last year I started to try soups, and now I've tried my hand at stew... so I'm acclimating. Expect a (tomato-free!) chili sometime this winter.
I made up this stew last night, and I'm very happy with how it worked out. I'd never made stew before, but a few friends came over for an impromptu dinner and the only veggies I had were root veggies. There are no pictures because I forgot to take photos when I was setting up everyone's plate, and we ate it all! But it was GORGEOUS, all orange and brown and beige, with a nice stewy sauce that serves as a great gravy.
Out of the four of us eating last night, two had never known the wonder that is the rutabaga. In case you, too, are a stranger to the great Neep (scottish phrase), let me give you a brief description:
Rutabagas are like radishes, just less watery. They don't have the same spicy taste - they're more cabbage-y in flavor. They are, in fact, a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Prepare them like a potato: wash well, cut off outer skin, cut. Bake or boil till tender. Very simple, very stew- or soup-friendly.
Autumn Root Stew
(serves 4 quite comfortably)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters.
2 -3 large (or 4-5 small) parsnips, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
1 large (2-3 medium) rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp sage
1 Tbsp thyme
2 tsp parsley
pinch each oregano, rosemary (optional - or whatever spices you like)
1-2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp miso
salt to taste
In a big pan, saute the garlic, carrot, and parsnips over medium heat until slightly soft and fragrant (5-10 minutes). Add the rutabaga, stir, then add enough water to reach the top layer of veggies - but not to cover. Raise heat to high. Add spices and vinegar. When the stew boils, turn the heat down to medium-high, cover, stir occasionally. Let stew (ha!) for 10-15 minutes. You can use this time to make sure your guests (or you) are comfortable and have enough to drink.
In a cup or small bowl, combine the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup water. Stir well, until all of the cornstarch is dissolved. Add to the pot, cook uncovered and stir often. Over the next 5-10 minutes, the cornstarch will help thicken up the sauce. Once the consistency gets to the thickness you want, dissolve the miso into about 1/4 cup water, then stir into your stew. Remove from heat; serve over millet (or bread or biscuits or... a grain) on a bed of spinach.
Note: An onion would be nice in this, too, but I made Mashed Millet from Christina Pirello's Cooking with Whole Foods, which is very oniony, so I decided against adding more onions to the meal. If you want to add onions, saute them in the beginning with the other veggies.
Fun note: in Scotland, people used to carve turnips instead of pumpkins for halloween. So if you find yourself with a leftover rutabaga, carve it up!