Friday, August 1, 2014

Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

I love the farmer's market at this time of the year. Miller Farms has their "bag sale" in full swing, where a stuffed bag of produce goes for a set price. I usually show them the cloth bag I've got (the standard price is for their plastic bags) and they tell me what it'll cost to fill it.

This time, I loaded up on corn (might have bought too much, actually) and then I had fun with the rest of the stand - onions, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, kohlrabi, cucumbers, beets ... maybe a few more things. Wow, that bag was heavy.

And of course I hit the rest of the stands as well. There were FOUR different stands selling peaches. I bought from two different ones, so I can do a taste test. Next week, maybe I'll try the other two.

And then I thought, gee, what should I make with all of this ... stuff?

The peaches are obvious. I'm probably going to eat most of them as-is. I can plow through those in no time. Maybe I'll make a smoothie or some kind of baked thing ... but ... eggplant?


Eggplant always makes me think of ratatouille, but I decided to make a different sort of stew instead. While ratatouille is pretty heavy on tomatoes, I added just two of them for a little flavor. And then when I got to choosing seasonings, I decided on something a little spicy.

This stew makes a great light lunch or a hearty side dish. And although it's meant to be served warm, it's actually pretty good cold, too, if you like that sort of thing.

The only downside is the color ... since it's a stew, it's a bit muddy, If that bothers you, sprinkle some thinly sliced chives or chopped parsley on top, or garnish with a bit of crumbled Cotija cheese (or any other similarly crumbly cheese)..

Do you love my new pot?

Pretty, isn't it? Fresh from unpacking!

I gave one of these Le Creuset stockpots away, but the giveaway is now over.

Farmer's Market Vegetable Stew

Since I bought really young eggplants, I didn't bother salting and draining them. If you've got an older eggplant, you might want to do that, although not everyone does. If you've got leftover cooked vegetables, you can add them at the end of cooking time. Feel free to change the vegetables, depending on what's available at your market.

And ... cut your vegetables to whatever size you like. It's a good idea to keep them somewhat uniform, but they can be larger or smaller, depending on your preference.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium/small eggplants, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 large white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 potatoes*, peeled and cubed
2 tomatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
2 bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut in chunks
1/2 bottle (or can) of your favorite beer (about 6 ounces) or wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon of sauce from chilis in adobo**
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup fresh shelled peas ***
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
Water, if needed

Heat the oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid.  - like the Le Creuset stockpot here.

Add the eggplant, carrots, celery, onion, and salt, and cook, stirring as needed, until the onions has softened a bit. It's fine if some of the vegetables get a few brown spots. Add the rest of the ingredients, excluding the water. Bring to a simmer, then lower the temperature a bit and cover the pot.

Cook, checking occasionally and stirring as needed until all the vegetables are cooked through. Add water, if needed. This shouldn't be soupy, but you don't want all the water to evaporate or you risk burning. Depending on how large the pieces are, figure about a hour. Taste and adjust seasonings - you'll probably need more salt.

Serve hot.

*The added potatoes made this a little heartier than if there was no starch involved. If you're not a fan of potatoes, you can use cooked pasta or canned beans instead to add the heartiness. Add the pasta at the end of the cooking time. Canned beans can be added just about any time, but I like the idea of letting them simmer with the vegetables to let all the flavors get to know each other, so I suggest you add them at the same time the potatoes would have gone in.

This could also be served over rice or mashed potatoes or polenta.

** If you don't want to open a can of chipotles in adobo just for one teaspoon of the sauce, you can use 1 teaspoon chili powder or chipotle powder instead. Or a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes. Or a diced jalapeno or Serrano pepper. If you don't want any heat, you can omit the peppery stuff entirely.

*** You can also use frozen peas.