A big pot of soup on the stove reminds me of Saturdays when I was growing up. We’d have navy bean soup, oxtail soup, chicken and alphabet soup, and some kind of soup with what my dad called “neck bones.” Back then you didn’t ask too many questions about what you were served.
When I think of stew, though, my mind wanders to my parents’ version, with thick chunks of beef with frozen peas and carrots in a brown gravy-like sauce. It’s kind of heavy, though, and I’m not a fan of dredging hunks of beef in flour and then browning them in some hot cooking oil.
Last weekend I was in the mood for something hearty, but still on the healthy side. I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew. But because Martha is Martha, I decided I needed to make the recipe simpler. (Martha sometimes uses ingredients that I don’t happen to have in my cupboards or fridge, like quail eggs, pork belly, or fennel pollen.) I did happen to have some squash on hand that I was planning to boil and smother in butter and brown sugar. Saner heads prevailed, and I decided it might be best to use it for a vegetable stew.
First of all, my squash was precut (a reflection of nothing other than pure laziness), and rather than roast it separately like Martha, I just threw it in with the rest of the ingredients and figured if I cooked it long enough, it’d get tender. It did. I also changed up the spices by using a tablespoon each of cumin and garam masala along with the paprika. Martha uses four teaspoons of harissa, which I didn’t have on hand, so I threw in a loaded teaspoon of sriracha instead.
There was a fair amount of chopping involved — mostly garlic (eight cloves) and onions (two), staples in nearly everything I cook. The chopping wasn’t difficult, and I used canned crushed tomatoes and canned and rinsed chickpeas, utilizing the time saved for more important things like chopping up a ton of cilantro to pile on top of the plain Greek yogurt I planned to spoon on the stew just before serving. I stole that idea from 7a, where I love to grab curried lentil soup on a cold winter day.
Of course when I said dinner was going to be stew, everybody was happy. I didn’t tell them it was a veggie stew until it was too late to protest. In the end, everybody came back for seconds.
Chickpea and Butternut Squash Stew
(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)
1½ Tbsp. olive oil
2 med. onions, chopped
8 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. garam masala
1½ tsp. paprika
3 med. carrots, cut into about ¾-inch pieces
1 med. butternut squash cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2½ cups water
1 large can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 large can chickpeas, or two 15-oz. cans, drained and rinsed
1 heaping tsp. sriracha
Plain Greek yogurt
Large bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
In a large pot, warm 1½ Tbsp. olive over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then stir in garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in cumin, paprika, and garam masala, and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and squash and 2 cups water to onion mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until carrots and squash are tender, approximately 20-30 minutes.
Add tomatoes and chickpeas. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in sriracha and a half-cup water. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. After ladling it into soup bowls, top with Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro.