19 October 2014

Hearty Autumn Vegetable and Apple Stew

I realize that fall officially began here in the Northern hemisphere almost a month ago, and I'm behind in welcoming it in on the blog. When people ask me what my favorite season is I usually say it's the transition between seasons rather than an actual season. The transition for me symbolizes movement, the promise of patterns not remaining stagnant, the opportunity to change up routines to release energy and blockages, mental or otherwise. And finally, it's the anticipation of what's to come. 

But if I had to choose an actual season, Autumn would be it. The air is refreshingly cool and light, and nature is offering an abundance of grounding energy in the form of root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.  And as nature knows best about what we should eat and when, I follow along and look to these roots in particular for balance at this time.

Do you ever notice having a renewed burst of energy with the transition into fall? Maybe it's in the form of enhanced clarity and productivity, but for some it can also be mixed with nervous or anxious energy. I notice this new energy in myself, and that's when I know it's time to increase my intake of root vegetables. As the name implies, they are rooted plants; grown securely in the earth, they are warming, grounding, and stabilizing for our energy and blood sugar. Unlike the light, water-filled lettuce and cucumbers we use to stay hydrated and cool in summer, roots deliver the phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber in a denser energy package, exactly what our mind and body needs and craves as we move into the colder months.

This stew is a balance of smoky, sweet, and tangy notes, and it highlights some fall favorites; parsnips, Brussel sprouts, and apple cider. Most importantly, I've designed the recipe so that it serves as a template, a launching pad. The flavor profile and liquid-to-veg proportions are in place. Overtime, use the substitution notes below the recipe to swap out root veggies and type of beans and greens to suit your taste or availability.  Make it your own so that it becomes your go-to fall stew recipe.

Happy stewing!

Hearty Autumn Vegetable and Apple Stew
Serves 4

Notes: See substitution notes below recipe to make this your own. And leftovers the next day are even better. As it reheats on the stove top add in some fresh green to brighten the colors.

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml) apple cider
5 cups (613 g) mixed fall veggies (I used Brussel sprouts + parsnips)
4 cups (just shy of 1 liter) water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 large sweet apple, peeled and chopped
2 big handfuls Swiss chard, cut in chiffonade (~3 large stalks) 
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)

Prepare vegetables. Remove woody ends and dry outer layer of Brussel sprouts and halve (or quarter if larger). Peel parsnips and dice into small bite-size pieces (if they're too big they won't cook thoroughly).

Heat a Dutch oven  or soup pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion; cook until onion begins to soften (2-3 minutes). Add garlic and spices (through cinnamon). Stir and cook another minute until garlic and spices are fragrant.

Stir in tomato paste, then deglaze pan with vinegar, using a wooden spoon/spatula to pick up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. (Stand back when adding vinegar so you don't inhale the strong smoke.) Stir in apple cider and let bubble and reduce slightly for 30 seconds or so, then add vegetables, water, and salt.

Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Taste broth and add more salt if needed. Then add apple, greens, and beans. Cover and simmer another 3-5 minutes, until greens have wilted and are bright green. Ladle stew into bowls and serve with a pinch of smoked paprika, if desired.

  • Chipotle chili powder, chili powder, or harissa sauce, can replace smoked paprika
  • I used slightly less than 1 lb (500 g) Brussels sprouts + 2 medium parsnips; carrots or sweet potatoes would also be nice options
  • Use a fresh, quality natural apple juice instead of cider, if cider is not available
  • Kale or spinach can replace Swiss chard. See this how-to for chiffonade.
  • White navy beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, or butter beans are all good options