Light and fluffy time: delicious and hearty Mediterranean-style stew

Ok, I realize that stew is not something we would generally think of as light and fluffy – but I meant that this is not a serious political or philosophical analysis piece or essay: it is for joy and for good health. Bon appetite!

I don’t usually write about food, unless it’s the politics of food, but here goes…Cooking is becoming more and more of a joy – especially when I’m cooking for others, and the art seems to be refining itself. Here’s the latest: a very hearty and delicious turkey-vegetable stew. For vegetarian variations, saute tempeh or tofu with tamari or soy sauce in place of turkey. Serves six to eight as a main dish, with bread, rice or noodles – or two people for three days (big batches are easier, I find, and leave you time for other things in life). The dish is a Mediterranean style stew, you could say, and very rich, very tasty, and very healthy.

I never measure anything when I’m cooking, unless I’m using a recipe, which is rare, so unfortunately, you’ll have to judge by taste and instinct, as I do: start with small amounts of each ingredient, then add a bit more at a time, tasting at virtually every addition, until the flavour is – hopefully – sublime. (I’ve included measurements for some items, but these are only estimates, or guesstimates.)

Cooking time: get a bottle of wine or a pot of tea going, and enjoy the slow and easy-going process… 45 minutes to four hours, depending on how long you want to gently simmer it for maximum flavour. (Cooking is like making love: you should never rush it, and always savour every moment.)

If you like, you can throw the ingredients in a crock pot and let it sort itself out. Either way, I hope you enjoy it: both the food and the cooking!

The dish is low carb, high in protein and super-rich in nutrients, high in essential oils and also fibre. It is so rich in flavour that you may want to serve it with a hearty bread or bed of brown rice – or maybe spelt or buckwheat soba noodles.

Quality ingredients, slow, low-heat cooking, and lots of love make all the difference in the world. Get all ingredients as fresh as possible, preferably organic (and local, free-range, fair trade, if you can find it). Then do it up! I make a variation on this stew at least once a week, and it’s always different, always hearty, and always delicious – feel free to experiment! If you don’t have all of the ingredients, leave some out or substitute. This is cooking live: we can improvise!

Todd’s Mediterranean-Style Stew
(possibilities and variations are endless!)

(Again, all ingredients are optional, and can be substituted, as you like. Cookie cutters are for cookies.)

“Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” – Harriett Van Horne

If serving with whole grain rice – red, black or brown – start rice early: whole grain rice takes 45 min+

Chop several cloves of garlic relatively finely (less or none if you’re not so fond of garlic)

(Optional, and preferable: saute 2-3 chopped onions with a shake of salt, in a generous amount of grape seed or coconut oil on very low heat, for 20 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently, making a super-rich and flavourful base)

Melt a generous amount of butter in a large, deep skillet or pot over minimal heat
(2-3 tablespoons – real butter, or ghee, for flavour, and yes, health; stainless steel is best, iron second; copper, aluminum and teflon out of the question for health reasons, unless unavoidable)

Add garlic to melted butter and keep heat very low (most people err in cooking by either rushing or using way too much heat – slow and easy, and pay attention: enjoy it – don’t rush)

Add 3-4 tablespoons of pesto to the garlic and butter, and stir

Add a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce, hot peppers or chilis
(remember, you can always add spicy heat later – start slow; also, if cooking for others, remember not everyone has a cast-iron stomach)

Add a splash of grape seed oil (2-3 tablespoons, roughly; grape seed oil is best for cooking, along with butter, ghee and/or coconut oil – all are healthy oils; substitute if need be)

Saute very gently on low heat for just 3-4 minutes in total (try not to brown the garlic or butter)

Add half a cup of red wine to the saute mix (any left-over wine that has gone vinegary can be used for cooking wine – or fresh works too, of course; either red or white can be used)

Increase heat to moderate, bringing the mix to a gentle simmer – keep the heat from here on at a gentle simmer until finished

Add a large splash of tamari (soy sauce if you don’t have it – careful with this: it is easy to over-do it)

Add a few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce (be very careful with this one – it is a very strong flavour: you can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s in)

Add a dash of celery salt (sea salt or table salt can sub-in)

Add 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning herbs (if dried, then best if ground with mortar and pestle – and also fun and delicious to the nose)

Add 1-2 tablespoons of basil

Add 2 tablespoons of coriander paste

Add 1-2 pounds of ground turkey (or chicken, or tofu, or tempeh, or chick peas, and/or beans…)

Add 2 cups of diced tomatoes (or 1 can)

Add half a cup of freshly grated romano cheese and half a cup of freshly grated parmesan (or more: more is better when it comes to cheese, butter and olive oil, I firmly believe! Ya, it means we have to exercise more, but it is super-healthful and also low carb and low glycemic index)

Simmer for 20 minutes at least, or longer

If serving with noodles, this is a good time to get them started

Add 1 cup of finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Add another splash of red wine if you like

Add a dash of lemon juice (1 tablespoon max)

20-30 minutes before you are ready to serve the dish, add vegetables at will, to your liking or in different combinations for variations on the dish:

Half a head of cauliflower, chopped

1 large, diced zucchini

5 minutes before serving, add any greens you would like:

Large amount of chopped spinach: half a pound or so, or 3-4 cups fresh (and/or kale, chard, collard….)

Taste, taste, taste….add what you feel it needs – small amounts at a time

Possibly a few more shakes of salt, maybe hot sauce, a dash of balsamic vinegar…as you like

Add olive oil generously, just before serving: 3-4 tablespoons for the pot, or a small splash or teaspoon per bowl (excellent for heart and circulatory system, gall bladder and digestive system, hormonal, nervous and immune systems – high in essential oils; best not heated for very long)

Serve with rice, bread or noodles, and enjoy. Smile when you eat, use all your senses, eat slowly and savour every mouthful, like it’s your last meal: then the smells, textures and tastes will explode in your awareness, and you will enjoy it even more!

Variations: some or all of the following can be added

Add hemp and sesame oil to bowls before serving for an adrenal-supporting, energy-boosting blast of added essential oils, with a rich Asian flavour. An Asian-Mediterranean hybrid dish sounds odd, but surprisingly, it works! The flavour combinations are great!

Ginger: add 2-3 tablespoons of chopped ginger early on and let simmer slowly

Lemon grass paste: 2-3 tablespoons early on, let simmer slowly

Sicilian pesto: 1-3 tablespoons

More zucchini: supports the adrenals, giving energy – lots of zucchini!

Add tofu, tempeh, chick peas and/or beans for added protein, B vitamins, fibre and iron.

Experiment with various Asian sauces: sweet, spicy or tangy

Add just about any kind of vegetable you like: try small amounts first, to see how you like it in the dish, later increasing amounts if you want – except for kale, chard and spinach, which, unless you really don’t like these, you can never have too much of, I’d say.

Vary the cheeses, or leave them out for a change: Emmenthal, Swiss, cheddar, mozza, ricotta, and of course, feta! Wow, feta in this dish is amazing! Goat’s cheese feta is the most digestible kind of cheese, and can be tolerated even by most people with dairy allergies: and it’s super-healthy: pack it in for flavour and health!

Serve with fresh mixed salad for important enzymes, added anti-oxidants, nutrients and fibre. (Healthiest oils for dressings include olive, flax, almond, hemp, sesame – low-grade oils are very damaging to the body.)

Nutritional status and taste:

High protein, low carb, low glycemic index

Meat, vegetarian or vegan options

Super-rich in nutrients, fibre and essential oils

Specific health benefits from each ingredient could fill many pages – let’s just say it’s a very healthy dish

Very richly flavourful

Endless variations on the theme

Delightful!

JTR,
June 16, 2011

One Response to “Light and fluffy time: delicious and hearty Mediterranean-style stew”

  1. jtoddring Says:

    A few thoughts for variations on this dish:

    The dish is delicious with meat, or vegetarian or vegan. If you make it a vegan dish, it is not only extremely healthy and very delicious, but also very inexpensive – especially if you learn how to cook with dried bulk beans and in-season vegetables.

    The dish is delicious on its own, or served over a bed of pasta, rice or other grain. Try experimenting with these:

    Brown, black, red and wild rice

    Spelt, kamut, buckwheat and rice pasta

    Quinoa, millet, amaranth, couscous and buckwheat
    (Note: buckwheat has a very strong flavour, so try a small test before going hog wild – not everyone likes this hearty grain)

    For meats, try minced turkey or chicken, or turkey kolbasa, sausage or pepperoni. Beef and pork would be delicious, but I tend not to cook with them because they are terrible for the environment, and also high in very unhealthy saturated fats.

    For leafy greens, try spinach, chard, kale, collards, beet greens, dandelion or mustard greens. Note that collard, beet, dandelion and mustard greens have a strong flavour, so start with a small amount to test the taste.

    For other veggies, try tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, onions….

    For cheeses, try feta, goat’s cheese, riccotta, freshly grated parmesan, asiago, emmenthal, Swiss, gouda, mozzarella or cheddar. Cheese isn’t necessary to make the dish delicious, but it certainly adds to it. A blend of four cheeses with a ton of veggies, a healthy dousing of olive oil, garlic and red wine, simmered very slowly on very low heat, and it is truly spectacular! Serve with rice, pasta, other grains or bread. Try bruschetta with feta and goat’s cheese along with this dish, and a hearty Greek salad – out of this world!

    Have fun, and enjoy!

    “Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Harriett VanHorne

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