recipes + photography SANDY GARSON

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew

Winter is the best time to get back to our roots. There are so many of them, each with their unique taste. And there are root spices that kick up the flavor: ginger, turmeric, coriander, garlic. You can give them all a warm welcome in a beef stew. Consider it healthy because adding all those colorful, vitamin-rich veggies minimizes the meat. Also, the cost. If you are feeling festive or need to beat the winter blahs, serve it in a hollowed-out pumpkin.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons cooking oil (corn, canola, vegetable)
1 pound leanest stewing beef, cut into large bite-sized chunks
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt plus more later
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 large carrots, peeled
2 large onions (red or yellow), peeled
2 stalks celery or ½ celeriac bulb, peeled
1 small leek, cleaned and sliced into 1-inch thick circles
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
½-1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
6 small new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large bite-sized pieces
1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch deep disks
¼ rutabaga, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
Pinch of red pepper flakes or ½ teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 more tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
More salt to your taste
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Cover the bottom of a heavy-gauge lidded casserole with oil. Heat over medium heat. In a medium bowl, quickly mix beef with the ginger, ground cumin, black pepper, salt and garlic. Put into hot oil and brown meat on all sides.

While it browns, cut carrots in half lengthwise, then cut halves into 1-inch pieces. Quarter onions, then halve the quarters. Cut celery stalks into 1-inch lengths; if using a celeriac bulb, cut it into large, bite-sized chunks. Add these and leek to beef with thyme, oregano and curry powder. Stir to blend and cook 2 minutes.

Add wine, broth and water. (If this doesn’t cover everything add enough broth or water to do that.) Add good pinch of salt, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Add potatoes, parsnip and rutabaga. Add red pepper flakes/Aleppo pepper and lower heat to simmer. Cook 60-70 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and any grease floating on top. Stir in tomato paste and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Toss in the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, taste and adjust salt. Serve hot with a fennel or green salad.

Good news: You can make this a day ahead. The flavors will intensify and it will be easy to degrease after it has been stored in the fridge.

. . .

Winter Gratin

This works well as a vegetarian dish or a side dish. You can also add slices of roast ham for a very hearty main dish at brunch or dinner. Some people prefer tiny bits of ham added to the sauce instead of a layer of meat.

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon olive oil (or 1 tablespoon of butter)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream (you can substitute one cup of evaporated milk for one cup of cream but the final dish will be soupy)
4¼-inch thick slices of roast ham
1 large leek, sliced into thin disks and washed
1¼ pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin disks
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
½ pound Gruyere cheese, grated
1 large rutabaga (1 pound), peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 star anise, crushed (if you don’t have star anise, substitute ½ teaspoon dried tarragon or teaspoon ground cloves)
Flat leaf parsley for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 375º. Baking pan approximately 11 x 7 inches.

Heat olive oil in small sauté pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in cream.

Spread ham slices evenly around bottom of baking dish. Don’t worry if there are gaps, just be sure they are uniform. Cover ham with a layer of leeks. Then cover leeks with a half the potatoes. Sprinkle the rosemary over potatoes, then sprinkle ½ cup of cheese on them.

Add a layer of rutabaga, using half. Sprinkle with crushed star anise and then ½ cup cheese. Repeat with a layer of potatoes and cheese, then a layer of rutabaga.

Pour creamy onion mixture over everything as evenly as you can and bake for 30 minutes in convection or 35 minutes in a regular oven. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top and continue to bake another 12-15 minutes, or until the rutabaga is tender and the cream seems solid. (It won’t be if you used evaporated milk.)

Remove from oven and let it cool at least 5 minutes before serving. Sparingly add freshly chopped flat leaf parsley for color if you wish.

. . .

Andalusia Spinach with Chickpeas

Espinacas con garbanzos, as they say in its homeland, is probably the most traditional, beloved and famous Spanish tapa. It’s served from Cadiz to Barcelona and everywhere in between, especially in the chill of winter. It’s colorful and nutritious to boot. Plus it’s very quick to assemble. It is usually served in a bowl with toast and a glass of Spanish jerez, sherry, as a tapa, but you can serve it as a meal side dish, too. It will delight vegans and vegetarians and all those kids who listen to Popeye and eat their spinach.

Serves 6           

½ cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
18 raw Marcona almonds (any raw almonds will do)*
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)
½ teaspoon chili powder (unless you are using hot Spanish paprika)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or 2 tablespoons sherry and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
13-14 ounce can chickpeas, drained but reserve the water
⅓ cup chopped tomatoes, juice included
1 pound spinach leaves, stems off, washed and coarsely chopped

*This is often made with almonds and two slices of day-old bread, crust off and cut into cubes. Using only almonds makes it vegan. If you don’t have almonds, you can use 4 slices of day-old bread or you can use both. There is not a fixed recipe.

Heat olive oil in medium pot or saucepan. Over medium heat, fry garlic and almonds/bread until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving oil. Put bread/almonds and garlic in a food processor, chopper or mortar. Add smoked Spanish paprika, chili pepper, cumin seed, black pepper and sea salt. Process or pound into paste. Add vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons chickpea water to thin the paste to the consistency of hummus. If necessary to thin more, add 1 teaspoon vinegar.

Put tomatoes and chickpeas into pot/saucepan with oil. Stir in paste, adding another tablespoon chickpea water if necessary. Warm over medium/low heat.

Add spinach, lightly pressing it down. Do not attempt to stir it yet. Continue cooking until spinach is wilted. Stir spinach into chickpeas and sauce and continue cooking on low heat 8-10 minutes, until spinach is very soft. Stir occasionally. Taste and add salt or sherry/sherry vinegar and/or Spanish paprika if necessary.

Serve warm with toast or in bowls or as a side dish.

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