Sunday, March 9, 2014

Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes

Behold the latest in the Joe Yonan make-a-big-batch-and-freeze-the-leftovers recipes! Unlike with the sweet potato and black bean soups, I'm sharing the base recipe straight away. While those soup bases are delicious on their own, they were ultimately designed to be as a canvas for other ingredients. This glorious pot of veggies, however, is a composed dish all on its own. The textures progress from melted tomatoes to soft squash to tender cauliflower, painted with a diverse palate of vinegary capers, spicy red pepper flakes, and umami-packed fish sauce. Fish sauce may set off a few alarm bells for some people, but it only serves to make this dish savory, not fishy, deepening the flavor rather than changing it.

This is a delicious vegetarian main or side dish, both options which I personally enjoyed in short order. For dinner, I layered a hearty scoop over a plate of greens, topping with a grilled salmon fillet. At lunch the following day, I combined the veggies with more greens and quinoa for an equally satisfying vegetarian meal. In addition to a few Joe Yonan recipes in the hopper, I also see a future for these stewed veggies as a pasta sauce, topping for other grains like couscous, rice, and bulgur, and partner for grilled chicken. Perhaps they'll even make their way into a grilled cheese? I wouldn't be a good Wisconsin girl if I didn't find a way for these vegetables to make their acquaintance with the delicious dairy this state has to offer.

Stewed Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, and Tomatoes
adapted from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
makes 6 to 7 cups

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 plump cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 (1-pound) cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch florets
1/4 cup small capers, drained
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes and their juice, preferably San Marzano, crushed by  hand
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce, or more to taste (or vegan fish sauce or tamari or soy for a vegetarian/vegan version)

1. Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, scatter in the sliced garlic and let it start sizzling. Stir in the onion slices and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the squash and cauliflower pieces, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and the red pepper flakes and use tongs to toss it all together.

2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Slosh the water into the can and add; stir well and cover. When the tomato juices are boiling, decrease the heat to medium-low or low so that the mixture is gently bubbling. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium high, and continue coking until the stew is reduced and thickened to a good pasta-sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce, taste, and add more fish sauce and salt if desired.

3. Eat a cup or two as a vegetarian main course and refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or freeze it in cup-size portions for several months.

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