Monday, November 12, 2007

how to feed fifty kosher vegetarian celiacs on a budget

So they weren't all vegetarian, and none of them were celiacs, but I did spend a lot of time cooking kosher food for large groups of people on a budget in college. It's something of a long story, so I think I'll save the full explanation for when I recount the time I tried to make ravioli for fifty (almost) single-handedly.

When you're trying to plan a menu and juggling multiple dietary restrictions, single recipes that do double duty are worth their weight in gold. Not only is this recipe kosher, vegan, gluten-free, and easily made in large quantities, it's also cheap, nutritious, reheats well, and freezes without protest. You can think of it as a different spin on chili.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stew

I think this originally came from I've scaled this recipe down so that you'll get two or three meals out of it, but you can make a big batch and have ready-made meals for weeks if you have the freezer space to spare.

(Serves one, with leftovers.)

As far as produce goes, you'll need two sweet potatoes, three cloves of garlic, a hunk of fresh ginger, one white onion and a red bell pepper (on a sesame seed bun.) You'll also need a can of black beans, and remember to pick up a carton of orange juice if you're like me and don't have any in the fridge because you never drink it. Do a spice cabinet check: cumin, chili powder, and cayenne if you like heat.

Peel and dice the sweet potatoes, onion, and bell pepper. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and sauté the onion. Season with salt. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir. Season with a generous sprinkling of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne if you're using it. I do mean generous. You should be saying "Oh, crap. I think I overdid it." (If you season too timidly, you'll have bland stew, and you can't make up for it by adding extra spice later, because spices need dry heat to release their aromas. )

When the onions start to smell really good, add the bell pepper, and keep stirring. Once the bell pepper has softened, open the can of black beans and dump them in. You can rinse them first if you like, but I find that the stew thickens up more quickly if you don't. Keep stirring.

Add the sweet potatoes, and pour in enough orange juice, or orange juice and water (I'll let you decide which you prefer) to cover everything. Stir the mixture again. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until your sweet potatoes are tender and the beans have started to break down, about forty minutes or so. Check for seasoning; salt to taste. I like this best served over fried or soft polenta, but rice works too.

Note: You can use ground ginger in place of fresh if you're short on time. On the other hand, if you have time to spare, it's worth the trouble to zest some orange rind to toss in with the garlic. It really brightens up the flavor of the sweet potatoes, and you can snack on orange segments while you're waiting for the stew to cook.


Karyn said...

Yay, stew and polenta!

Of course, I once attempted to make a polenta "crust" on a bowl of chili. I think it would have worked if I had fried the polenta before putting it on the soup - I ended up with a sort-of cornmeal chili. Unexpected, but very warm and filling.

adele said...

Chili and polenta is a great combination. It's like cornbread, only easier.