Squash Stew

Burrrrr!!  Harvest moon, wind chill factors and snowflakes falling  brings memories of this delicious dish to mind.  As I saunter through the aisles of my local grocer,  I inspect the variety of squash available today including many different types of pumpkin.  I decide on a perfectly formed, bright orange pumpkin called “Sweetie Pie!”  My mother-in-law made this every Fall with just a small everyday orange pumpkin.  During the Depression when food rations were given out my husband’s family lived on Lansdowne Avenue in Camden, New Jersey.  An empty lot was behind their house  and was often used as a short cut for those traveling home with their rations.  At this time of the year  recipients were given flour, sugar, butter and a pumpkin!   Often times a lone pumpkin would be left in the lot. Mom would send her son out to retrieve each and every pumpkin that was left behind.  She would clean and roast them for puree.  Her pumpkin pies were coveted by the family and a staple at Thanksgiving dinner.  Others were cleaned, peeled, and quartered.  One quarter was  slice thin, dipped in egg then floured and fried until golden brown.  The remaining pumpkin was cubed, combined white beans and other veggies into a delicious  stew.  This weekend when the temperatures dipped  and the wind blew, it was time for my Sweetie Pie to meet its fate!  I cleaned and quartered the pumpkin as I had watched my mother-in-law do so often.  Three quarters went on a baking sheet; skin side up at 350 degree for 45 minutes.   No need to peel the flesh will easily come away from the skin.  Process in a food processor until smooth; Viola! fresh pumpkin puree!  Now for the recipe for this hearty, mouth-watering squash stew.

Peel the remaining piece of pumpkin  (you can use butternut squash) and cube

1 large onion chopped

2 carrots cleaned and sliced

2 ribs of celery chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1/2  jalapeno pepper  seeded  (you can use hot pepper flakes, I like the fresh pepper)

1 large potato peeled and cubed

1 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes

1 16 ounce can of white beans, rinsed  (I like navy beans for this)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of salt                                                                                                                                              1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 small piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

In a large sauce pan heat the olive oil;  add the onion and celery.  Cook together about 3 minutes.  Add the carrots, garlic and hot pepper cooking about 5 more minutes.  Next add the potato and pumpkin cooking for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the potato is just tender, about 20 minutes.  Add the beans and check for salt.  Cook about 15  minutes more to heat beans.  Grab some crusty Italian bread and Kerrygold Irish butter then enjoy this healthy, hearty dish on a cold, windy night!

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