Sunday, September 12, 2010

Vegetable Beef Stew

Inspired by my trip to NC last weekend to visit my grandmother, coupled with the lovely fall weather, I decided to make a big pot of vegetable beef stew.  All of the windows in the house are open and a cool, fresh breeze is blowing through.  Fall is here and nothing (except Christmas!) can make me happier! 

The reason why vegetable soup reminds me of my grandmother in NC is that almost every time we went to visit her, we arrived around lunch time on a Saturday afternoon (it was only a few hours from where I grew up in Raleigh).  In addition to every vegetable under the sun, there was almost always a pot of vegetable soup that she made using all the leftover fresh veggies - really everything except the kitchen sink.  I had to add beef to mine because my husband doesn't think a meal can be a meal without meat.  Also, my grandmother can't remember her recipe so I just had to make it up as I went along.  But it turned out yummy.

What you'll need:
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 onion (I used red but you can use whatever you have on hand)
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
4 cloves of garlic
4 medium sized potatoes, diced (I used yellow, again use what you have on hand)
1 zucchini, diced*
1 green bell pepper, diced*
1 cup green split peas*
1 can tomato paste
1cup red wine
3 Tbsp olive oil
fresh herbs - whatever you have on hand - I had thyme, rosemary and oregano in the garden so just used that
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red chili flakes

*All veggies are optional - add or remove based on what you like or what is already in your house.  My grandmother used to throw in leftover green beans, butter beans, squash, etc.  In my opinion, I'd keep the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and potato base, though.

What you do:

I like to prechop all of the veggies before I start cooking.  It just makes things easier to add all at once when you assemble but that is just my thought...

The 1 pound of beef stew meat comes in huge chunks.  You don't have to but I like to chop it up into smaller pieces before cooking.

Heat 1.5 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan.  Once hot, add the meat to the pot in a single layer and don't stir it until the bottom layer has had a chance to brown. 

Once the meat is browned and cooked through, remove it and set aside in a bowl. 

Clean out the fat from the pot and add remaining 1.5 tbsp of olive oil and heat up. Add in the garlic, onion, celery and carrots.

Cook thoroughly until browned and onions are very caramelized.

While the veggies were cooking, I assembled a herb bouquet of thyme, rosemary and oregano.

Deglaze the pot with the veggies with the wine.  Get all of the yummy bits up off the bottom of the pot.

Add in the rest of the veggies that you have as well as the tomato paste.  Stir everything thoroughly to get the tomato paste distributed.

I also added split peas at this point but again, you can use whatever you want.

Add the beef broth and the herbs as well as the other spices - I added cumin for some smokiness, hot sauce for some heat, etc.  All of this is to your taste.

Let everything simmer for as long as you have.  I did two hours tonight but it'll be even better this week when I bring it for leftovers to lunch at work!

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