Thursday, November 5, 2009


Fall is the time of the year when we start thinking of one-pot meals. The whether is getting cold and the body craves comfort food. The supermarkets are featuring a variety of winter squash, potatoes and sweet potatoes that are ideal to prepare hearty stews. Latin America is fortunate to have a large repertoire of stews thanks to the variety of immigrants that brought their favorite dishes with them. The Spanish brought wonderful cazuelas (stews) that the local cooks enriched with their native ingredients. These stews are usually made with some kind of legume, leafy greens such as Swiss chard, spinach or cabbage and the indigenous calabaza (winter squash). Spaniards season their stews with a piece of Spanish chorizo, ham, or salt pork, but during Lent they use either dried cod or make stew completely vegetarian. Whatever ingredients you choose will give you a hearty stew that will warm up your heart and palate, and will provide you with generous amounts of A and C vitamins, most of B-vitamins, potassium and iron.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound) peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, liquid included
1 15-ounce can white Northern beans, liquid included
2 cups water
2 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces calabaza or any other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
10 fresh Swiss chard leaves, thoroughly washed and chopped into bite size pieces
8 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and paprika, cook for a few seconds; add tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaf, reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered until tomatoes are soft and saucy, about 10 minutes. If mixture dries up too soon, add a little water, mixture should be saucy. Add chickpeas, beans and water, bring to a boil, add potatoes, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add calabaza and cook for 10 more minutes.
2. Add Swiss chard together with ham and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper if needed and more water if too thick; the stew should have enough liquid to cover vegetables. Discard bay leaf.
3. Serve hot in soup bowls sprinkled with parsley and a good country-style bread. Serves 4-6

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