Thursday, March 7, 2013

Vegetable-Beef Stew in Pumpkinseed Sauce

Some time ago, I used ground peanuts to thicken a Vegetarian West African Soup, and loved the results. Any number of ground seeds and nuts are used in African cooking to similarly thicken soups and stews, and this version uses pumpkinseed kernels (pepitas). A bowlful is sure to warm you up on a snowy day.

  • 2 tablespoons roasted salted pumpkinseed kernels
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 8 ounces frozen Gardein beefless tips (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped and seeded pickled jalapeno pepper*
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (1/4-inch thick) sliced carrot
  • 1 and 1/2 cups undrained canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan beef broth (prepared from Not Beef bouillon)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (2-inch) cut green beans
  • 2 cups thinly sliced kale
1. Cook the pumpkinseeds in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes - the kernels should be toasted and just beginning to sizzle and pop.  Remove from heat and cool.

2. Transfer to a spice grinder and process until finely ground.  Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, coriander, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and black pepper.  Set aside.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in the pan over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and saute for 3 minutes; remove from the pan.

Note: Don't worry that the frozen beef doesn't cook all the way through in these 3 minutes; you'll return the beef to the pan soon enough for a nice long simmer. This 3 minute saute is merely to give the beef a nice browned coating on all sides.

5. Add the remaining teaspoon oil to the pan, and add the onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeno; saute for 4 minutes.  Stir in the ground pumpkinseeds and the cumin mixture; cook for 1 minute.

6. Return the beef to the pan, along with the carrot, tomatoes, molasses, and beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the beans; partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

7. Stir in the kale and cook for a final 4 minutes, until the kale is wilted.

To round out your meal, serve with mashed sweet potatoes on the side:

or ladle the stew directly over rice:

I also recommend a glass of white wine with this stew; try the vegan chardonnay from Buenas Ondas.

*Rather frustratingly, many brands of pickled jalapeno contain yellow #5 and sodium benzoate. I don't even know if these two ingredients are vegan and frankly don't care - I'd avoid them both on principle as not natural enough to eat. Luckily, the organic pickled jalapeno from La Preferida contains only jalapenos, vinegar, and salt.  The pickled jalapeno slices come in mild or hot, and I chose the former since I'm a wimp about heat.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup), Calories 176 

Tasting Notes:
This is a wonderful showcase for Gardein's beef, and there are exceptional notes of molasses and spice in the savory broth. I detected only a hint of nuttiness from the pumpkinseeds, so to play up their flavor, you might consider sprinkling each serving with about 1 tablespoon extra pepitas just before serving. The veggies are tender and kept the stew tasting fresh rather than heavy, particularly the kale and the carrot.  This would be a "5" except a couple components I was excited for - the pickled jalapeno, the cloves - weren't as strong as I hoped.  Good over rice, but actually even better alone.


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