Meat stew was at the center of our daily menus recently.
The weather was right for hearty, warming entrees and at the market we bought beef shanks, a cut of meat we like. Although we intended to make our stew the basis of several meals, our plan was to make our entree different each time, because we like to have variety in our menus.
While the beef was stewing – it usually needs two and a half hours or more to become tender – we added beans. Not only do beans gain a delicious flavor when they are cooked with beef, they also contribute low-cost protein to the meal and have virtually no saturated fat. All kinds of beans are good with meat. Most often we choose chickpeas or white beans, but black beans and pinto beans are good, too.
We also put a few eggs in their shells in the pot so they would turn into savory brown eggs like those of hamin (cholent).
They, too, are a more economical source of protein than meat.
By the time we had added the beans with the water needed to cook them, as well as chunks of onion and a few potatoes, our pot was full.
At this point our stew had only half its components; we like our meat with plenty of vegetables, for flavor as well as nutrition. We could have started with a much larger pot, but it wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator. In addition, certain vegetables, such as broccoli, if cooked in the stew, tend to fall apart when the stew is reheated. Instead, we cooked the vegetables in a separate pan.
To make our stew look and taste different from one day to the next so it remains tempting, we add different vegetables in colorful combinations each day. On Day 1, we might add turnips and carrots, on Day 2, broccoli and orangefleshed squash, and on Day 3, green beans, cauliflower and mushrooms. If we finish the beans before we eat all the meat, we add another kind of bean, either cooked separately or canned.
When we reheat our stew, we often microwave each portion with its vegetables so they absorb flavor from the sauce.
If there’s no time to cook fresh vegetables, we add frozen ones directly to our bowls and microwave them. This meal plan works with any kind of meat, including chicken and turkey.
JUNE HERSH, author of The Kosher Carnivore, also favors finishing certain meat dishes with separately cooked vegetables.
When Hersh makes New England boiled dinner from corned beef, she prefers to cook the vegetables – small potatoes, quartered cabbage, turnips and parsnips – in a second pan because “the corned beef water will be salty and fatty.... You’ll lose a bit of the authentic flavor, but your veggies will be fat free.”
To some stews, Hersh adds sauteed vegetables.
For her beef stew Provençal, she sautees baby carrots, diced potatoes, mushrooms and frozen pearl onions with chopped garlic in olive oil before adding them to finish simmering with the partially cooked meat in its herbed red wine sauce.
Andrew Schloss, author of Dinner’s Ready (with Ken Bookman), has another way of using cooked meat as the center of his weekly cooking strategy. He prepares the food for a weekend dinner in larger quantities so that the meat, sauce and vegetables become the building blocks of easy weeknight entrees. If he prepares a big dinner of meatballs and sausages in red pepper sauce, later in the week he heats a few of the cooked sausages and some of the sauce with additional sauteed onion, frozen okra and canned tomatoes to make an easy main-course gumbo. Braised beef might be combined with canned beans, corn and spices to make a quick weekday chili.
Preparing meals this way saves time and energy because the meat is cooked all at once, and the last-minute cooked vegetables take only a short time to prepare.
Doing so also makes our food healthier, more economical and more enjoyable.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dinner Inspirations.
BEEF STEW WITH BEANS AND VEGETABLES
For this rich, flavorful stew seasoned with garlic, hot pepper and cumin, browning the meat and vegetables is not necessary. It’s best to stew the meat one day ahead so you can chill it and skim the sauce thoroughly of fat.
If you are using beef shank slices with marrow and you would like the marrow to stay in place so it can be eaten with a spoon, choose a wide stew pan in which the beef fits in one layer and use gentle heat to cook the stew. For the vegetables, use either a medium or a large saucepan, depending on whether you want to cook all the vegetables in one day, or a few each day.
For a lively finishing touch, I serve the stew sprinkled with chopped parsley or fresh coriander, or I put out a dish of freshly made s’hug (Yemenite hot pepper garlic relish) for stirring into each portion to taste. Serve the stew with crusty bread or fresh pita.
1.4 to 1.8 kg. (3 to 4 lbs.) beef shank slices or 900 gr. to 1 kg. (2 to 21⁄2 lbs.) beef for stew, cut in chunks
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
1 to 2 tsp. paprika about
7 cups water
2 cups dried white or pinto beans or chickpeas, sorted and rinsed
2 to 4 small dried hot peppers (optional)
1 large onion, halved and cut in large chunks
4 eggs in shells (optional), washed well
4 boiling potatoes
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Selection of any or all of the following vegetables:
2 to 4 large carrots, cut in thick diagonal slices
2 to 4 small turnips, quartered and sliced
350 gr. (3⁄4 lb.) large mild radish, such as daikon or Korean radish (optional), halved or quartered and sliced (see Note below)
1 head broccoli or cauliflower, trimmed, divided in medium florets
225 gr. (1⁄2 lb.) green beans, ends removed
2 to 4 zucchini, halved and sliced
Put beef in a stew pan and sprinkle with a little salt, freshly ground pepper and about half of each spice – the cumin, turmeric and paprika. Add enough water to come nearly to the top of the meat.
Cover and cook over medium heat until the water just begins to bubble.
Add beans, dried hot peppers, onion and 5 cups water. Gently add eggs in their shells to pan. Cover and cook over low heat until stew comes to a simmer.
Reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2 hours, checking sauce occasionally and adding hot water about 1⁄2 cup at a time if it becomes too thick.
Transfer 1 or 2 cups cooking liquid to another saucepan for cooking the vegetables, and replace the liquid you removed from the stew pan with an equal amount of hot water.
Cut potatoes in chunks and add to stew pan. Add garlic and remaining spices.
Cover and cook for about 1 hour or until meat is very tender and beans are cooked to taste. Skim fat thoroughly. Remove dried hot peppers. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To cook the vegetables, add 4 or 5 cups water to the broth in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables according to their cooking times, timing each after the water returns to a boil and cooking them in the covered pan over medium heat: Allow about 10 to 12 minutes for turnip slices, 10 minutes for radish slices, 6 minutes for carrots, green beans and broccoli or cauliflower florets, and 3 minutes for the zucchini.
When the vegetables are cooked to your taste, remove them with a slotted spoon. Season the vegetable cooking liquid to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Serve the stew in large shallow bowls.
In each bowl put some meat, a marrow bone if you wish, beans and some of the cooked vegetables. Moisten with the sauce from the stew and the vegetable cooking liquid. If you like, cover and microwave to heat briefly. Top each portion with 1⁄2 to 1 shelled warm egg. Serve sprinkled with parsley.
Makes 6 to 8 servings Note: You can find these radishes at the outdoor markets and at well-stocked produce markets.
SPEEDY BEEF CHILI WITH BEANS AND CORN
This recipe for a fast way to combine already cooked beef and vegetables is based on braised beef chili from Dinner’s Ready. Authors Schloss and Bookman make it using the beef and broth from braised short ribs. You can use any cooked beef and beef broth that you have.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1⁄2 large onion, chopped
1⁄2 sweet red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno or other fresh hot pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 to 3 tsp. ground cumin
2 to 3 tsp. American-style chili powder (see Note below)
2 to 21⁄2 cups diced cooked beef, fat discarded
1 ripe tomato, cored and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup beef broth
11⁄2 cups cooked or canned kidney beans or other beans, drained if canned
11⁄2 cups cooked or canned corn, drained
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sweet pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Add the jalapeno, cumin and chili powder and cook for 30 seconds more.
Add the meat and stir for 1 minute.
Add the tomato, garlic and broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the beans and corn and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Makes 4 servings
Note: To make chili powder, mix 11⁄2 tsp. paprika, 1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin, 3⁄4 tsp. dried oregano and 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 tsp. cayenne or ground hot red pepper, to taste.