This hearty vegetarian recipe is from Ready When You Are, by Martha Rose Shulman. A version of this recipe was also published in the New York Times and is available on their website. I’m sharing with you the recipe from the book, with the small changes I made to accommodate my pantry and style of cooking.
There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, and it takes a fairly long time since you start with dry beans. It is, however, not hard and prepping everything ahead of time is helpful because there is a moment in the cooking where everything needs to be ready at the same time.
I generally soak my beans 24 hours, although lately I have had good luck using the quick soak method. Since I used two different kinds of beans, I soaked them in separate bowls. To spread the work out into manageable steps, I cooked the beans on one day, prepped the ingredients on another and finally made the soup on a third. You obviously could do this all in one day. The point of the Ready When You Are cookbook is to break recipes down into manageable steps like the ones I used; it’s been helpful for me in looking at other recipes and seeing where I can set something aside with minimal (negative) effect on the end product. Soups and stews are pretty obviously the best candidates for this kind of treatment, but even baking recipes can be broken down a bit.
While all of the ingredients add something special to the recipe, I think the two biggest players in flavor development are the addition and sauteing of the paprika and the long simmering of the butternut squash. The paprika really blooms and adds a richness and depth that underlies the whole stew. Meanwhile, the butternut squash (or other squash) adds a nutty sweetness that just MAKES the dish. It melds the disparate flavors and pulls the whole thing together. Amazing.
Mixed Bean and Winter Squash Stew
from Ready When You Are, by Martha Rose Shulman
- 1/2 pound dried white beans, soaked in 1 qt water for 6 hours or overnight
- 1/2 pound dried pinto beans, soaked in 1 qt water for l6 hours or overnight
- Salt (you’ll probably need a tablespoon)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 T sweet paprika
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (14 oz) can, with liquid
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes
- 1/2 pound fresh or frozen lima beans
- 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen corn
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T. chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley
- Drain the dried beans, combine with 2 quarts water in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until tender but intact. Add salt to taste and set aside 1 1/2 cups of the beans. I did this on day one, and reserved the beans in the fridge. The next day I prepped all the veggies, except the parsley.
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes, and add the paprika. Stir together for about a minute, and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the garlic and onion are very fragrant but not brown, and stir in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes are cooked down and fragrant, 5 – 10 minutes. Add the cooked beans, except for the 1 1/2 cups you set aside, the bean broth, the bay leaf, pumpkin or winter squash, and lima beans. Bring to a boil, add the bit more salt, recuse the heat, and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the squash and beans are tender. Add the corn and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, until the corn is tender. Taste and adjust the salt, and add freshly group pepper. I made the stew through this step on the morning of the third day and didn’t worry about thawing either the lima beans or the corn.
- Blend the reserved 1 1/2 cups of beans in a blender or food processor, or mash them in a mortar and pestle. Stir into the stew, along with the basil or parsley. Heat through. The mixture should be thick. Remove the bay leaf. Serve the stew hot, with corn bread or crusty French bread. Finally, I served the stew the evening of the third day, after pureeing the reserved beans, stirring them into the mostly completed stew and bringing the whole thing up to serving temperature. While it came up to temp, I made corn bread to serve alongside the stew.
Leftovers: This will keep for at least 5 days in the refrigerator and is best eaten 2 days after making it. It freezes well. This stew is so good as is, just keep reheating it until it’s gone.
Laura’s Note: I made this over the course of three days, as mentioned in the recipe. This worked for me because I prepped various parts of the stew while I was cooking other things. You could easily make this in one day, too; it just happened to suit me to break it up. I usually freeze about a quart of the soup. According to the original recipe, this should serve six, but I’ve generally gotten about 8 generous servings out of one recipe.