When I was a little kid, we did not live very close to a public library.
The library was in another town, maybe about 45 minutes away from our house, and going there was a special treat that usually occurred only in conjunction with some far less appealing occasion, like a visit to the dentist.
But these days, E. and I go to the library about once a week. We go to story time, work a few puzzles in the children’s room and we each check out a few books. E. knows how to return books into the book slot (or “that big, big hole,” as he likes to say) and he stands on a stool to help me at the self-service checkout terminal. He even knows where to go to look for any books that we’ve reserved ahead of time.
We own a lot of books and I really do like seeing my favorites on the shelves in our family room and bedroom, but I’m also pretty happy to just borrow them from the library, especially since I don’t read most books more than once.
One exception is cookbooks. I really like owning cookbooks so that I can refer to them whenever I want.
Having said that, borrowing cookbooks from the library has exposed me to lots of books and recipes that I would otherwise have never come across, like this one for a hearty, vegan stew with an African vibe.
It’s the perfect recipe for the start of fall — full of rich flavors and studded with cool weather greens.
I kept the recipe pretty much as written, my only real changes being to add a few garnishes: roasted peanuts for a little textural interest, extra cilantro for color and a big squeeze of lemon juice to cut the richness. I also like to stir in a little hot sauce. You could do this at the end of the cooking time but, since I’m feeding a toddler, I keep it mild and just plunk a bottle of Sriracha on the table for those of us who want extra heat.
Also, the recipe calls for diced tomatoes but the last time I made it (when these pictures were taken), I bought crushed tomatoes by accident and used those instead. Still delicious, but I definitely prefer diced for the distinct bites of tomato. With diced tomatoes the broth will look a just a little more, uh, brothy, so don’t sweat it if your stew doesn’t look exactly like the picture.
This recipe was even a hit with Paul, who swears he does not like stew.
It’s loaded with vegetables and protein, healthy but not in the least sanctimonious. Economical and uncomplicated, but still interesting.
We have eaten it at least three times in the past two weeks. Is there really anything else to say?
Adapted, barely, from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health.
This African-inspired vegan stew is hearty but healthy and packed with protein. You could serve it over rice (or quinoa or even couscous) but I think it is plenty substantial on its own.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms (cremini or white)
- 2 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger root
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes)
- 3 cups water
- 1 block of firm or extra-firm tofu, diced (about 14-16 ounces)
- 3 cups chopped collards
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- hot sauce, to taste
In a large pot on medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, celery and salt, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the mushrooms and ginger, cover, and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, water and tofu and bring to a boil. (I was tempted to reduce the amount of water because I usually like thicker stews, but I didn't and it was just right.) Reduce the heat so that the stew is simmering gently. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the greens and cook, covered, just until the greens become tender, about 10 minutes.
While the stew simmers, ladle out 2 cups of the broth and set aside. In a small bowl (or large liquid measuring cup) combine the peanut butter with the reserved broth and stir until smooth. I find that stirring the liquid in a little bit at a time makes this easier.
When the greens are tender, add the peanut butter mixture and cilantro to the pot. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
Ladle the stew into shallow bowls and top each portion with additional cilantro and a sprinkling of peanuts. Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.