I am not one of those people who always plans out a week's worth of meals and does one big grocery shop to last the week, I like flexibility for the whimsy. But I have been doing this more lately. It's a good habit to get into, saving time, money and car trips. Sundays always lend well to this kind of activity, sitting down with a cup of coffee and planning out dinners for the week ahead.
Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Root Cellar Green Grocer in Victoria to pick up all the produce I'll need for the week. Farm fresh and dirt cheap, it's one of the best places around to buy local fruits and vegetables.
During my shop, I picked up an assortment of veggies - squash, onion, fennel, mushrooms, parsnip and kale - perfect for making a warm seasonal autumn stew. I especially like the hint of cinnamon in this recipe because it enhances the warm, homey flavours of the squash and parsnips so well. Do you have any favorite autumn stews?
Seasonal Autumn Stew (serves 4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary, minced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
1 parsnip, cored and diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can (28 oz, 796 ml) whole tomatoes, pureed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch of kale
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 pinches of cinnamon
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Cook onions, stirring, until golden and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, fennel, squash, parsnip, bay leaves, rosemary, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about five minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
Add stock, pureed tomatoes and chili flakes. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, saute thinly sliced mushrooms in a little olive oil and butter until they start to brown.
Once the vegetables are tender, add mushrooms and kale to the stew along with a pinch or two of cinnamon. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or chili flakes if needed.
Try serving this topped with a little Italian flat leaf parsley and sour cream and whole wheat bread on the side.