It’s like TEN MILLION degrees cooler now.
Something magical happened. The hurricane broke the 90 degree heat and humidity that had been plaguing us and made way for the coming fall season. Seriously, it was as if fall manifested overnight! Now, I’m well aware that we probably still have a few 80 degree days in our near future but it feels amazing currently outside!! The skies are clear and the air is just a teensy bit crisp and I would be doing somersaults of joy if I could get my body to move in such an alien way!
I know. I’m presenting the biggest cliche. Everyone always seems to be impatient for fall and I’m no exception. In truth, I just seem to thrive a bit more when the weather is cooler and the color of the changing leaves greet me every morning. BUT. I’m definitely not ready for the nights to be longer. I thrive on daylight and am the BIGGEST morning person. When the fall/winter season rolls around and the sun isn’t up at too-effing-early o’clock, my energy levels fall and it’s harder for me to be chipper and energetic in the morning – which, for some people, may not be a total loss. Yes…yes, I definitely am one of those people who are annoyingly alert and talkative in the early mornings. I just can’t help it! Mornings are my favorite part of the day.
Anyways – in my celebration for this quasi-fall comeuppance, I got excited and made stew. YES.
Guys, this vegetable stew had ALL of the flavors of a regular beef stew but no beef! Now, I did make a separate stew for my boyfriend so that he could have the venison my boss kindly gifted us with and I can honestly say the broth and flavors tasted the exact same.
I am beyond excited. I managed to replicate the heartiness of a meat stew without the meat! And regardless – the vegetables that I included in the stew all melded so well together. It felt less like I was eating a stew with a bunch of different vegetables and more like I was devouring a cohesive, beautiful bowl of deliciousness.
What’s the secret?
The right vegetable combination, a bottle of beer, and tomato paste.
Another secret: COOK YOUR TOMATO PASTE. Let that tomato paste heat up and change in color to a much deeper red and let all those flavors mutate into something profound.
That’s it! For real! Get that paste, beer, and vegetable combination right and you’ll be good to go.
And by ‘go’, I mean you’ll be swooning over this stew for days. Make a lot. You’ll want it.
Ready-For-Fall Vegetable Stew
Feeds 4-6 people
What You’ll Need:
- 5-6 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 bottle (12 oz) of beer of your choice (I would recommend you use nothing too dark)
- 2 tblsp of tomato paste
- 1/2 a medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 acorn squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups worth – you can also use butternut squash or pumpkin – whatever gourd is available for you)
- 1 cup of lima beans (known affectionately in the south as ‘Butter Beans’ because they’re smooth and tasty like butter!)
- 1 cup of frozen corn kernels
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 3 cups of chopped, de-ribbed collard greens
- 2 1/2 cups of chopped okra (I used fresh because my boss surprised me with some from her family’s farm. If you’re not as lucky, frozen is fine!)
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp of chili powder
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a dutch oven pot or any large soup pot you have, heat a tablespoon of oil and saute your onions with a pinch of salt until the onions are translucent. Put in your tomato paste and all your spices and bay leaf (including an additional tsp of salt and pepper) and let the paste cook with the onions and spices until the paste darkens slightly in color and spices are fragrant, stirring constantly (2-3 minutes). Put in your cubed acorn squash and let it soften with the paste. Pour over the beer and bring it to a bubble for a minute, stirring so that you scrape the bottom of the pot.
- After the beer mixture has bubbled away for a minute, pour in the rest of your vegetables and the vegetable stock. There should be enough liquid to cover the vegetables by 1 1/2 inches so add stock and/or water accordingly. Bring the whole pot to a boil. Once it is at a boil, cover tightly with a lid and bring the heat down to low (if you have numbers on your knob, I stayed between 2 and 3). Let simmer for 2 hours.
- Once the 2 hours are over, take off heat and taste. Salt and pepper as you see fit. Serve in happy abundance!
Happy Early Fall Y’all!
All the beautiful photos were taken by Nick W.