Grand Italian Vegetable Stew (version II)
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
3 green bell peppers
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 pounds eggplants, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons salt, plus extra for sprinkling the eggplant
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
6 medium-size zucchini, ends trimmed, peeled, and sliced
2 cups peeled and diced winter squash, such as pumpkin, butternut, or acorn
1 pound diced, chopped, or shredded mixed seasonal vegetables of your choice, such as kale, mustard greens, celery root, broccoli rape, Swiss chard, spinach, or green beans
4 large onions, sliced and separated into rings
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 springs fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
good-size pinch of saffron threads
2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 425F. Place the peppers in a baking dish with a little water or on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and roast until the skins are blistered black, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the seeds, peel off the skins, and cut lengthwise into sixths. Set aside.
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until semihard, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Lay the eggplant pieces on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Leave them to drain of their bitter juices for 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.
In a large casserole, heat 3/4 cup of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the peppers for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, add the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and any other root vegetable you are using, such as celery root. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft looking, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep earthenware casserole set on a heat diffuser, heat the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the onions, garlic, rosemary, oregano, and saffron. Stir well, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 8 minutes. Add the water, reserved potatoes, and the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and other partially cooked vegetables, if using. Add the 2 tablespoons of salt and the pepper. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the potatoes are completely soft, about 45 minutes.
Serve from the earthenware casserole after discarding the rosemary and garlic. Sprinkle the top with the basil and parsley and serve hot or at room temperature, if desired.
Makes 10 servings.
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