Meatless Monday: Tuscan Vegetable Stew

I try to do some cooking for the week on Sunday, as there are often recipes that take more than 90 minutes to assemble and I really do not have time for that during the week. As is the case with many of you, I get home and try to get dinner together in about an hour. Forget about the rest of the house, I’m hungry by the time I leave work and my goal is to eat as quickly as possible at night. Now, I have rather forgiving schedule that allows me to leave by 4-4:30 p.m. each day. And, since I live in Syracuse, my commute is about 10 minutes. So, dinner is typically served by 5:15 p.m., just in time for The Kid to wrap up a busy after-school schedule of cartoon watching.

Now, most nights I can get dinner together without much problem but when there is a soup or stew involved, I like to let things stand so that the flavors can get some legs underneath them. This is where living in Syracuse comes to my advantage. It’s late March and I can still store things in my redneck refrigerator (aka my insulated back porch) for a couple of days without anything coming close to reaching an unsafely warm temperature.

For this edition of Meatless Monday, I went with a kitchen sink/empty-the-crisper vegetable stew that could sit on stove for the better part of the afternoon. Most of the stuff involved in this stew was already in my cabinet or fridge. The only things I needed were kale, celery and some extra beans. The mirepoix gets a slow sauté before meeting with the tomatoes, beans and aromatic herbs.

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WHAT WORKED: For soups and stews, I like to reserve the liquid from at least one can of beans. The liquid is negligible, but the starch adds a nice thickener to the broth. 

WHAT DIDN’T: I planned to make a little gremolata with parsley, lemon zest and garlic, but my lemons and parsley went bad. Truth be told, I forgot that I had parsley in the fridge. I pulled it out of the crisper and as the thought of gremolata came to my head, I caught whiff of the rotten herb. Yick.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy. Toss a bunch of stuff in a pot and simmer. 

BEST FOR: Meatless Monday or a make-ahead for Tuesday type of dinner.

SERVE WITH: Crusty bread and grated cheese.

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Tuscan Vegetable Stew
By Jared Paventi

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, chopped and rough stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cleaned, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, cleaned and diced
  • 2 small cooking onions, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained
  • 3 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (JARED’S NOTE: I saved a can’s worth of liquid.)
  • 2 qts. (64 oz.) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • herbes de provençe
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Add the kale and cook 3 minutes. Drain, cool, and wring as much water out of the greens with your hands as possible. When cool enough to touch, chop the kale into small, fork-sized pieces. Set aside.

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In the meantime, set a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the olive oil and wait for it to shimmer. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until the onions have softened and turned translucent. 

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Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, one handful at a time, crushing them as you drop them in the pan. Stir occasionally until the tomato liquid evaporates, about 10 to 15 minutes.

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Add the beans, broth, kale, a three-fingered pinch of herbs and a two-fingered pinch of salt to the pan and stir. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least one hour. Serve hot.

If you make this ahead of time, reheat the stew over medium heat until it reaches a simmer.

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