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Shoulder season in the kitchen

Posted by Sheryl Julian  September 23, 2010 11:04 AM

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Every so often I stop by the Callie Crossley Show on WGBH radio to talk about food, as I did yesterday. The subject was making the transition from summer to fall, and as anyone who shops at a farm stand knows, it's an exciting time in the kitchen. Many of the warm weather crops -- tomatoes, zucchini, herbs -- are still in season, but so are some of the cool weather vegetables.

Yesterday, I brought this vegetarian stew to Callie, who is an amusing, warm, smart, and remarkable interviewer (she knows a ton about food!), with a soft-cooked egg on top. We decided that cooking in September and October is a matter of layering. You know you have to take a sweater and perhaps a jacket to work in the morning because the day begins cool, heats up, then turns chilly at night. In the pot, the layers come from adding tender ingredients, such as zucchini, to heartier ones, such as butternut squash.

Before I left for the show, I went out to the garden to snip oregano and thyme for the garnish, noticed the fresh mint still thriving, and decided to add some of that too. Layer your own nourishing pot.

Vegetarian stew

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced on a diagonal

Salt and black pepper, to taste

6 plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cans white or red beans (or a combination), with their liquid

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Extra oregano (for garnish)

1. In a large flameproof casserole, heat the oil and when it is very hot, add the zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Cook without moving for 3 minutes. Turn the zucchini and cook again without moving for 3 minutes. The bottom slices should get very brown. Continue cooking in this way for 3 minutes more.

2. Move the zucchini to the edges of the pan. Add the tomatoes rounded sides down to the middle. Cook without moving for 3 minutes. Turn the tomatoes and cook them flat sides down. Turn the zucchini while the tomatoes cook. With tongs, pull off the tomato skins if they come easily.

3. Add the cumin, allspice, and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the stock and beans, with the liquid from the cans. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket and several inches of boiling water, steam the butternut for 10 minutes or until tender.

5. Add the butternut squash to the pot with the oregano and mint. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender and the flavors have blended. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or red pepper, if you like. Ladle into bowls and garnish with oregano. Sheryl Julian

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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