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Cooking With Friends

Let Inspiration Strike

Mon, September 08, 2008

Blog Photo

I couldn’t wait for my cooking date with Elisabeth. Both of our fridges were overflowing with vegetables from our farm share, 5 out of 7 of our combined kids were back in school and we were starved for some time to reconnect as friends. Our goals were simple: to use as many of our farm fresh veggies as we could and after a summer filled with culinary splurges, to create a healthy, low fat “girlfriend” meal.

With a bit of pressure to meet the school bus, we only had an hour and a half to cook.

The morning of our cooking date, I emptied my refrigerator, raided the pantry and stuffed a bag with a multitude of veggies, dried lentils, a few cans of beans and a handful of herbs. When I got to her house, I quickly noticed that her counters were covered with her share of veggies—it was obvious she was just as eager. Out came the cutting boards, knives and with no certain goal, we decided to make whatever inspiration would strike.

The garlic and onions sizzled as we chopped and diced carrots, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. The colorful hue of diced veggies and fragrant scent of sweet onions and garlic gave us a simple nudge; the company of a friend in the kitchen, the back and forth discussion of quantity, flavor and purpose, gave us the confidence to create together.

Liz’s kitchen was quickly filled with a sweet aroma. With a colorful pot of vegetables, some kidney beans and lentils, we arrived at a cross between a Vegetable stew, Ratatouille and Chili. It was absolutely delicious! I served it as a compliment to some grilled chicken sausage for my husband for dinner and he gave it two thumbs up.

Here’s our recipe:

Farm Fresh Vegetable Stew
Makes 3 ½ quarts

The sweetness of the vegetables and the fresh thyme create a naturally rich and delicious flavor. This is a wonderful way to use up farm fresh produce at the end of the summer. Feel free to get creative and add whatever vegetables you have on hand.

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 onions, diced
3 cups diced assorted peppers (sweet red Italian, green and red bell)
1 ½ cup diced carrots
½ cup celery (4 stalks)
2 cups diced eggplant (salted)
½ cup green beans, roughly cut
2 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
4 tomatoes, skins removed and diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces of brown lentils, cooked al dente for 8 minutes

Advanced Prep work
Cut an eggplant into rounds. Lay the eggplant on a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt. After about 15 minutes, dice and add to the stew.

Remove the skins from the tomato. If you have a soft skin peeler, you can use it to remove the skins. Otherwise, you can blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, scoring the tops first, and then removing the skins.

Cook the lentils in boiling water for 8 minutes, drain and run under cool water.

Cooking Instructions
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on a medium heat. Saute the garlic for just a minute and add the onions. Season with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and cook for about 10 minutes. Begin adding the other vegetables gradually, starting with the peppers, carrots and squash. When all the vegetables are in the stew, add the thyme, cumin, salt and oregano. Let the vegetables simmer until tender as a stock begins to form. Mix in the lentils and kidney beans. Simmer for as long as you have, up to an hour and a half.


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Cooking with Friends is an interactive community of people who cook together as a creative outlet and as a way to grow and enhance friendships. We are a resource for cooking dates, recipe swapping, equipment sharing and more. Search the site for advice, inspiration, ideas and big batch recipes that will help you cook with your friends!