Every week, before I head to the grocery store, I thumb through my vegan cookbooks, looking for something interesting to make. This week I thought I’d make a “Vegetable Stew with North African Spices” from a recipe in Forks Over Knives. I bought all the ingredients and then they sat in the fridge for almost the entire week. And do you know why?
Because one of the main ingredients was peeled and cubed butternut squash.
Let me tell you, I’ve peeled squash before and it’s no fun. The skin is tough, the shape is challenging and my vegetable peeler isn’t up to the task. So every day I’d think about making that stew and then I’d choose to do something else. Something that didn’t involve peeling a butternut.
Today I finally decided to stop procrastinating and get it done. Plus I had no other food in the house.
It took a variety of knives as well as my vegetable peeler. It was hard. I stopped in the middle to go online to see if there was a better way. Two YouTube videos later I realized that there are no secrets. Except that you can buy this stuff already peeled and cut up. It costs a bit more the guy on the video said.
Back to work for me. I’m struggling with the bottom half of the squash, peeling off chunks of skin when suddenly the whole thing squirted out of my hands and flew across the kitchen slamming into the floor over by the fridge. Katie looked at me, frozen in place and then started toward the potential snack.
I screamed “NO!,” and racing around the wastebasket, I beat her to it. There were seeds splattered everywhere. She hovered near as I scrambled to pick them all up. I didn’t want her to ingest the sharp seeds and she’s a good girl, especially when her mama’s screaming at her, so she held her ground and I got it all cleaned up. Don’t tell anyone, but I rinsed that squash off and kept on going.
I wasn’t about to start over.
Finally I got the squash peeled and began to slice it up. Thirty minutes had passed. I was hungry and the sliced squash looked a lot like cheese. I wished it was.
After the hard work of peeling squash the rest of the recipe came together easily. Chopped onion, celery, carrot to start.
Add the spices – paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon. Grate the ginger, mince the garlic. Peel a potato and a turnip, chop those up. Pour in some vegetable stock and at the end add a little mint.
I was worried as it simmered. It didn’t really look like a stew, it resembled soup at best, with slices of turnip floating on the top. I don’t even like turnips. I had nothing else prepared for dinner, so it was this….or go get a sandwich from Subway.
I held out hope.
And guess what? I liked the flavor even though I didn’t put in the pinch of saffron because I couldn’t find it in my spice drawer. I know I bought some because I remember how expensive it was! Eventually I looked online to see if there was a substitute but couldn’t discern anything about it other than it had a ‘subtle flavor.’ I figured maybe if it was subtle no one would miss it and I was right.
But who knows, maybe it would be amazing with saffron.
In the end it was OK, just like it was, but I kept thinking that the flavors would really compliment beef stew meat. And once I mentioned that, my husband enthusiastically agreed. What to do. Should I stay true to the vegan recipe? Or supplement it with…gasp….beef?
All I can say for sure is that I will never, ever, peel another butternut squash. Next time I’m buying that stuff already cubed. No contest. As for the beef…well…what would you have done?