Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nutty Sweet Potato and Kale Stew

Picture this. It's 1 am and you've been at the bar for several hours. In walks a beautiful woman carrying a tray of vegan rosewater pistachio, chocolate mouse, or cappuccino cupcakes. She proceeds to distribute them amongst those present and you all devour them like only people who have the buzzed munchies can. No, this isn't fiction. This scene actually repeated itself pretty frequently at the Sahara, a bar in Worcester, MA where you were pretty certain to find me a few years ago. And who was the cupcake goddess?, you ask. My friend Jenna.

With such a vegan maven in the mix, the food talk was common. I remember one particular night when Jenna kept smiling, looking out into space starry eyed. Was she in love? Yes, yes she was ... with a stew. She just couldn't stop thinking about the wonderful African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew she'd made and had for dinner. When I finally left Worcester, she let me in on the secret: she gave me the book she'd gotten the recipe from -- "Vegan Planet" by Robin Robertson.

The book has since become a favorite of mine. I love the stew of Jenna's dreams. It's got a little sweetness from the potatoes, heat from the pepper, a bit of acidity from the tomatoes and some creaminess from the nut butter.  I've changed a few things from the original recipe: I used more tomatoes, a bit more broth and garlic, changed the spice quantities and substituted almond butter for the peanut butter. Inspired by a similar recipe in "The Happy Herbivore Cookbook", I also decided to add a bunch of kale, since you can never really eat too many greens. The result is just perfect for a night like this one, when I need something comforting after getting my ass kicked in Muscle Pump.

Nutty Sweet Potato and Kale Stew
Adapted from African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew in Robin Robertson's "Vegan Planet"
Makes about 6 servings 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle or cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into about 1-inch cubes
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed 
  • 2 tablespoons almond or other nut butter
  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds or other nut
1. Add the oil to a pot over medium heat. When the oil is ready, add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Throw in the garlic and bell pepper, cooking until the pepper softens, about another 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the ginger, salt and spices, cooking until fragrant or about 1 minute. Toss in the potatoes and stir them to coat. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, their juice, and the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are about 10 minutes from being done.
4. Mix in the beans and the kale. Cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
5. Remove about 1/2 cup of the broth from the pot and mix it with the peanut butter. Stir the mixture back into the pot.
6. Serve garnished with the chopped nuts.

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