When my seven year-old tried this meatless menagerie, she literally got up from the dinner table and did a dance. (Yes, gangsta style.) I don't know if it was the chunky tomatoes, or the Parmesan topping that made our mouths water...but you'd never guess that there's puréed butternut squash in the gravy that cradles the wonderful tender vegetable morsels, which provide your mouth with texture and taste. In under an hour you can have this quick, rich, and satisfying vegetarian stew with fall flavors. Oh, freakin' yum.
I will admit, if you tell me a dish is vegetarian, I still get a little apprehensive. Before I tried this Butternut Squash Stew, I never had a stew without meat. Unless you give me a meatless recipe that packs some punch and carries a lot of flavor, I'll usually pass it over as a menu choice. I miss my meat, unless a dish is presented to me that satisfies my ability to sink my teeth into something and tantalize my taste buds at the same time. What can I say? I'm a tough critic. Chef Jeff is a confident cook. He knows he's placing a dish before a gal who is definitely going to try it before she sends someone else off to buy the ingredients to duplicate it. I tried it. I liked it. Now, I hand it off to you. It passed my tests for ease of preparation and taste justification with flying colors.
1 medium (or large) butternut squash (A 9 - 12 inch squash is a good medium size one. A larger one is fine, too, and will only make the sauce slightly thicker. The tomato and bean juices will thin out the gravy a bit anyway.)
1 15oz can white cannellini beans
1 28oz can peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice
1 diced medium onion (any color works)
1 medium carrot (cubed small)
1 medium potato (cubed small)
2 garlic gloves (minced)
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup chives, plus a 12 whole chives places to the side for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)
salt & pepper to taste
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot.
2. While the stock is coming to a boil, cut up the onion, carrots, potatoes, and chives (except put 12 whole chives to the side). Cut, peel, and skin the squash. Cutting the squash will take a bit more skill. Follow the photos below for the technique. (Or yes, you can buy the pre-cut fresh squash and cut it into bite size bits. Shh! We just won't tell anyone you did that!)
3. Add the cubed butternut squash to the boiling stock. Boil for approximately 15 minutes until the squash is fork tender.
4. While the squash is cooking, in a large frying pan, add the butter and olive oil on medium-high heat.
5. Add the carrots, onions, and potatoes. Sauté for approximately 5 - 10 minutes then add the minced garlic. The potatoes and carrots will not be soft at this point. Don't panic! It's ok!
6. When the squash is done cooking, do not drain it. Use an immersion blender and purée it until it's silky smooth and incorporated into the stock.* (If you use an immersion blender, use your medium blade. That's not the smooth round one, and not the one that looks like a helicopter propeller. Use the one that's round with some notches.)
7. While the vegetables are finishing their sauté , remove the whole tomatoes, reserving the juice, and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. A rough chop is ok. (I like my tomatoes chunky style for this. Below you will see how Chef Jeff chopped them. I left my pieces in approximate 3/4 - 1 inch wedges. I wanted a bigger veggie to bite into, and less tomato breakdown into the gravy. The choice is yours.)
8. Sauté the vegetables 3 - 5 minutes more until they are almost fork tender.
9. Add the sautéed carrots, onions, and potatoes to the puréed squash.
10. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice.
11. Add the cumin and sage, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.
12. Add the Cannellini beans (with juices).
13. Simmer uncovered for 10 - 20 minutes on medium-low heat. (I recommend simmering for 20 minutes to make sure your potatoes and carrots are tender. The simmering process will finish softening them up.)
14. Serves 6, two-cup servings. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of chives, plus two sprigs of chives criss-crossed, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste**.
Special Notes: * If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully pour the stock with the squash in small amounts into a regular blender and purée in batches. Be sure to vent the top of the blender and not have the lid sealed tight. Use a dish cloth while holding the lid on to protect yourself from hot splatters! The steam captured inside of the blender will pack pressure. If you fill your blender too much and don't let some steam escape when pulsing the tender squash into the stock, you can risk seriously burning yourself.
** Seasoning is very personal, so that's why if you choose, you can add additional salt and/or pepper before serving. Be careful not to over salt this dish. There is added salt in the broth, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. You may not need to add much more.