‘Stewpendous’: Hearty fare to warm your kishkes
Photo: Tina Wasserman
Osso Buco

By Tina Wasserman

It’s the middle of February and I had to wear my warm coat yesterday because it was very cold and the high winds made the cold seep up my cuffs to freeze my arms. Ah, but yesterday I picked the first two daffodils in my yard with more to come thumbing their noses at the last, I hope, of the cold weather.

So, for many reasons, I thought of stews. They’re hearty, inexpensive most of the time and they can be made in advance. What more can you ask for? Oh, they also happen to be kosher for Passover if you are looking to make something in addition to your favorite brisket!

Enjoy these now whether you are a meat lover or a vegetarian — there’s one for you too.

Stews are very forgiving, so substitutions or additions are a common occurrence.

Photo: Dave Carlin
North African Vegetable Stew

North African Vegetable Stew

This recipe is easy to make and is a nod to the Jewish inhabitants of Algeria and Tunisia, where harissa is often used as a flavoring component in their dishes. You can cut down on the harissa if you don’t like foods too spicy hot, but do leave some in.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1½-2 cups)
  • 3 medium leeks (1 inch in diameter preferred), trimmed of all green and cut into ½-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups good-quality vegetable stock
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15½-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon honey

1. Heat a 6-quart saucepan over high heat for 15 seconds. Add the oil and heat for another 10 seconds. Add the onion and leek and sauté until lightly golden brown. Do not burn.

2. Turn down heat to medium. Add coriander, caraway seeds (if using), cumin, smoked paprika and garlic and sauté for 1 minute until spices are fragrant.

3. Add the vegetable stock, all the vegetables, seasonings and the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

4. Cook mixture until the vegetables can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

5. Add the parsley and honey and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Yield: 2-3 quarts

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Like all good stews, this tastes even better the second day.

• The stew will last for days in your refrigerator but I think the squash and turnips might get a little mushy after freezing.

• If you want to make ahead and freeze, don’t add the turnips or parsley and honey before freezing. Defrost, reheat and add the turnips to cook through. Then, add the parsley and honey.

• Certainly, other vegetables can be added or even some strips of flanken to make it a meat stew.

Osso Buco

Jews were brought in large numbers to the Roman Empire as slaves at the beginning of the first century and after the sacking of the Temple in Jerusalem. The best historical documentation of this action is in the frieze on the top of the Arch of Titus, where you can see, among other things, a Jewish slave carrying the menorah from the Second Temple.

I first had this dish in San Gimignano and I am sure you will love it as much as I do.

  • 3 large veal shanks, with marrow bone (each weighing about 1¼ pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 12 baby carrots, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in half lengthwise and then into ¼-inch dice
  • 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups tomato sauce from recipe below or mild purchased marinara sauce
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water with 1½ Telma chicken bouillon cubes
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 8 ounces broad noodles
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Zest of one medium lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Season the meat on both sides with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. Heat a 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven (the large, two-handled pot that probably came with your set of pots and pans!) for 20 seconds. Add the olive oil and heat for another 15 seconds. With the heat still on high, add the meat and brown it on all sides. You may reduce the heat to medium-high if the oil begins to smoke. Remove the meat to a plate.

4. Add the onion to the Dutch oven and sauté for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery and thyme. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly golden.

5. Add the tomato sauce, stock and wine to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil.

6. Return the meat to the Dutch oven and baste with some of the sauce. Cover and place in the oven for 3 to 3½ hours or until meat is very tender. Remove from oven. Let Dutch oven rest while you prepare the noodles according to package directions.

7. To serve, place noodles on a large platter. Arrange veal shanks on top of the noodles and then spoon some of the sauce over all.

8. Lightly toss the parsley, lemon zest and garlic together with a fork in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture — Gremolata — over the meat and serve.

Basic Tomato Sauce

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • ½ small carrot, grated
  • 1 28-ounce can recipe-ready crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat a 3-quart saucepan for 20 seconds. Add the olive oil and heat for 15 seconds more. Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until lightly golden. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter.

2. Add the thyme and the shredded carrot and cook for 3 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a half-hour. Stir the pot periodically to prevent scorching. Add salt and pepper if needed.

NOTE: This recipe makes enough for 2 recipes of Osso Buco. Freeze the remaining sauce for another time.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• If you prefer, this dish can be made with lamb shanks or beef slices with marrow bone in the center. The alternatives will be stronger in flavor but the taste will still be great.

• This dish freezes very well.

• This dish can also be made for Passover.

• A Dutch oven probably got its name because it was a cheaper way to “bake” a dish on the cooktop rather than heating up the stove.

Greek Lamb Stew

This is a dish representative of all the culinary influences in the Mediterranean region: spices from the Middle East, oranges and olives from the coastal regions and lamb from the many hills in Greece. The only ingredient that makes this recipe more contemporary is the addition of wine. In ancient times Jews didn’t cook with wine.

  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons cream sherry
  • 2 pounds boneless lamb, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1½ cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads or 1/8 teaspoon powdered
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cubed
  • ½ cup halved, pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Soak the raisins in the ½ cup sherry for 1 hour or longer.

2. Marinate the lamb in the orange juice and garlic for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Drain and reserve the marinade.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven and brown the lamb. Remove the lamb to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

4. Sauté the onions in the pan until light golden, then add the spices and the almonds and sauté for another 5 minutes.

5. Stir in the flour with a whisk and cook for 1 minute. Add the raisins with the sherry, the reserved marinade and the red wine. Stir to mix and season to taste with the salt and pepper.

6. Return the lamb to the pot, add the tomatoes and the olives and cook until the meat is tender, about 1½ hours. If the sauce is too watery, reduce the liquid after removing the solids from the pan.

7. Add the 3 tablespoons of sherry and the lemon juice, reheat all of the ingredients and serve.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• The stew can be made with dark chicken thigh meat instead of lamb.

• I use cream sherry in recipes because the fortified liquor doesn’t lose its flavor during cooking, making the dish richer in flavor, more so than dry sherry.

• An acid food should always be present when marinating meats because it acts like a tenderizer.

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