Friday, October 19, 2007

Not 'Til You Eat Your Vegetables

Here's my dirty secret. I don't care for vegetables. Yeah, yeah, I know I garden and all of that, but I just like certain vegetables, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and broccoli. Guess that's one of the reasons that vegetarianism never pulled very strongly at me. They are beautiful on the vine or in profusion at a farmer's market, but once I get them home, there's this whole disconnect. Okay. Now what do I do with them?

So I'm planning next year's garden and my New Year's Goals early. Both of them have to do with eating a wider variety of vegetables. For the past several years, I've been focused on getting the Hobbits healed up and we're well on our way. Some of the masses of medical information that I sifted through indicated that higher portions of protein are necessary in cases of compromised gut integrity and so that has been my biggest focus. But these days they are catching up to themselves and Bug and Princess have even pulled ahead, so I'm looking to balance things out and include more vegetables in our diet.

Of course, an assay of this nature means--for me--a systematic pillaging of our library's resources of recipe books for appealing dishes. The problem with most recipe books I've found, especially vegetable ones, is a heavy reliance on ingredients of which most are off the menu for us. But I'm stalking this one dish at a time. Baby steps, you know.

With an abundance of leaves littering the ground and cooler weather creeping up, I'm starting to really believe that summer is over. Spending ten hours de-leafing the yard has a tendency to drive that point home. Especially when you wake up the next morning and the yard looks as if you did nothing the previous day but swan on the couch with the latest Victorian thriller and eat Endangered Species chocolate. Next time, I think that's what I'll do and just tell everyone that I de-leafed the yard. No one will know the difference, right? Anyway... These days, I'm feeling like warm comfort food, so when our latest co-op delivery brought us grass-fed stew meat on sale, I splurged and then decorated the meal with as many vegetables as I dared.

Autumnal Beef Stew

2 lbs. stew beef, cubed
3 large carrots
3 large parsnips
2 yams
2 potatoes
6 tomatoes
1 zucchini
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
1 tsp. dried sweet basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
4-6 dried sage leaves
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. Real Salt
2 cups bone broth
1 tablespoon lard or olive oil
1 tsp. sugar

Bias slice carrots and parsnips. Cube yams and potatoes. Slice tops off of tomatoes and drain out liquid and seeds--I find a helpful prod from a finger does this nicely. Rough chop tomatoes and zucchini and run through food processor until liquefied. Measure herbs into a coffee filter and staple closed. Heat oil and add sugar, allowing to caramelize to smoking point. Brown meat and onions in oil, adding broth and vegetable juice when sufficiently browned. Bring to a simmer boil and toss in herbal sachet, sprinkling in salt to taste, and allow to simmer for half hour. Add remaining vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes or until fork tender. If there isn't enough liquid, add more broth with vegetable juice until sufficiently liquid. Serve alone or over pasta.

Everyone in the family, Hobbits included, downed this delight with dispatch. Tool Guy waxed long and appreciative. The parsnips added a delicate sweetness to the whole dish and no one wanted to waste a drop. It was a gratifying foray into expanding our palates. Confidence bolstered, I'm now meditating on eggplant, brussel sprouts, cauliflower...all the possibilities. In just a couple short months, it will be time for seed shopping and before you know it, sprouting season will be upon us. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that winter will be enough time for me to get many little space...

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