A great stew is a balance between flavors and textures, and ideally the end result is greater than the sum of the parts. One of my favorites is a French-influenced vegetable stew that I have been tinkering with for a few months. It has sweet squash, mellow potatoes, piney rosemary, and sharp green olives, with a bright broth of tomatoes and Dijon mustard.
Although this blog is vegetarian, I’m not. After many years of strict avoidance of meat, I started eating it a few years ago — but only rarely, and only from good local sources (like Marin Sun Farms and the Local Butcher Shop). As I was starting to learn how to cook meat dishes (I was a vegetarian when I learned to cook), I gravitated towards slow-cooker dishes where I would be less likely to mess up the expensive meat — I was seeking the magic of “set it and forget it” (though I should note that the team at Serious Eats has done some careful analysis of stews and found that slow cookers are not so great when compared to pressure cookers or Dutch ovens).
One of the slow cooker books that I found had a few tasty-looking slow-cooker stews, so I started experimenting. One of my favorites was a “Provençal beef stew” that had the interesting flavorings of Dijon mustard, green olives, tomatoes and rosemary. After cooking it a few times, I realized that it would be a great candidate for “vegetarian-ization,” and so I started experimenting with versions that replace the meat with vegetables and legumes. After a few iterations, I had something good. And something fairly easy: prep the vegetables, get them cooking and baby, you’ve got a stew goin’.
I list ingredient quantities below, but you could adapt as you like. There is probably also room for vegetable substitutions: zucchini in early Autumn might be good, or other winter squashes, or a handful of spinach added at the end. I would avoid strong vegetables like turnips and broccoli.
Vegetable and Chickpea Stew with Green Olives and Rosemary
A vegetable and chickpea stew with sweet squash, mellow potatoes, and sharp green olives. The vegetable quantities are rough suggestions -- you can vary the quantities as you like.
- 300 grams yellow onion (1 medium)
- 200 grams carrots (3 medium)
- 450 grams waxy potatoes (3 medium)
- 300 grams butternut squash
- 3 cloves garlic
- 235 mL dry white wine (1 cup)
- 200 grams tomato (1 cup)
- 200 grams cooked chickpeas (1 1/2 cups, drained)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 30 mL Dijon mustard (2 tbsp)
- 12 green olives
- 10 mL salt (2 tsp)
Dice the onion into 1/2" (12 mm) pieces. Put them in a bowl.
Cut the carrots into bite size pieces. Put them in a new bowl.
Peel the potatoes if you like. Cut them into bite size pieces. Add them to the carrot bowl.
Peel the squash and cut it into bite size pieces. Put the pieces in a bowl.
Mince the garlic and put into a small bowl.
Dice the tomatoes and put into a bowl. Add the Dijon mustard and chickpeas.
Pit the green olives, and cut into large pieces (1/3 to 1/2 of an olive). Put in a bowl and set aside.
Cooking the Vegetables
Place a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.
Add about a tablespoon (or more) of olive oil, then add the onion. Cook the onion until it is clear and soft.
Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the wine, stir, and cook for a few minutes.
Add the carrots, potatoes, and salt. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.
Add squash, rosemary, and thyme.
Add water to cover the vegetables. Cover the pot and cook until vegetables are almost tender.
Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and mustard.
When vegetables are tender, add the green olives, stir gently. Allow the green olives to heat through, and then serve.
The use of bowls to hold the prepped vegetables is optional, but helps with organization. You have a few minutes between each vegetable addition, so it might be possible to cut one vegetable as the previous ones are cooking, i.e., prep the carrots and potatoes while the onion cooks.
Inspired by Provençal Beef Stew in The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World , by Lynn Alley (Ten Speed Press, 2003)