I deliberately didn't write "the last CSA of 2011" (CSA stands for community supported agriculture, where individuals can subscribe to a farm and in return receive shares of produce). Many farms offer winter shares of root vegetables, storage crops, meat, or prepared foods.
The farm I belong to, Foxtail Farm, sent its last regular-season boxes last week. After a tough summer of sometimes slight boxes, this was full of fall bounty like hardy greens, squash, and turnips. Gazing at the colorful tangle of flora, I was seized by the urge for a hearty stew to counter the recent drop in temperature. While none of the items fit exactly into a recipe I had, I felt comfortable enough after a summer of vegetable juggling to put something together using what I had on hand. As a guide, I used a favorite recipe with different ingredients. The resulting stew was so distant from the original recipe they were barely on speaking terms. Yet the original recipe, for Deborah Madison's Chickpea, Potato, and Tomato Stew, is one I've used so many times before. It has proved itself so adaptable that I was not at all surprised to find that using the same techniques with very different ingredients produced a delicious, one-dish, vegan supper that satisfied omnivores, too. Best of all, I used most of the items from the CSA box (eight!) in a dish easy to prepare on a weeknight, with enough leftovers to eat and freeze.
Savory Autumn Vegetable Stew
(Serves 6 to 8)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 pile green stems (see below), sliced fine
6 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small dried chile, chopped, 2 pinches red chile pepper flakes, or one teaspoon fresh chili, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced, mixed with 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
6 cups cooked chickpeas*, or two 25-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
1 heaping bunch greens (I used turnip, chard and radish), washed, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 cups water or chickpea broth
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oil in wide skillet over medium heat. Add onion and stems; cook until lightly colored, about five minutes.
2. Add sweet potatoes, squash, chile and garlic and cook for five minutes more.
3. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, greens, water, salt and ground pepper to taste, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Cover and simmer until sweet potatoes and squash are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve.
*To cook chickpeas from scratch, take 2 cup dried beans, soak in 3 quarts of water overnight. Drain chickpeas and place in medium saucepan with 3 quarts fresh water. Boil for 10 minutes. Skim off surface foam. (Optional: add a peeled garlic clove and strip of kombu or wakame seaweed.) Lower heat and simmer, partially covered, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cook for five minutes more. Strain, reserving broth for soup.
Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, Minnesota Monthly's food blog Dara & Co., and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for us was "Happy Trails: Biking and Eating in Minneapolis."