Fish Stewp

Soup + Stew = Stewp! No explanation needed here. Simply put, an easy one-pot meal that can feature fish, poultry or meat and vegetables. It can either be a tomato based broth or a creamy one. You can serve stewp with crackers, crusty bread or a baguette and a basic salad completes the meal. Some people would tell you that stewp should be like a thickened soup because anything thicker is technically stew. Others think that its more like a thin, watered down stew.

Preparing stewp is so flexible, its hard to fail at it. Some recipes call for plenty of starchy vegetables, which will make the liquid thicken, others call for big chunks of meat or poultry and chunky vegetables to bulk out the soup stock.

I had never really heard the ‘stewp’ word used until the year we went to France. My sister, Loretta had accompanied Brion and I on this trip. The three of us have many wonderful memories, some of which I have spoken of in my blogs over the last few years. One morning while we were in Southern France, Loretta mentioned she wanted to pick up a few gifts for her son and daughters before it was time to return home. Not wanting to make a boring time for Brion, we had him drop us off at some small boutique shops. Of course, as shopping goes, it took quite a bit longer than we expected. In the mean time, Brion, having heard about something called stewp, decided to have an authentic bowl of it for lunch while waiting. When he explained it to us later, it sounded fabulous.

After we got back home, I tried to replicate the ‘taste of his memory’. Obviously that was not possible but I think this recipe is a good try.

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Fish Stewp
Instructions
  1. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil. Saute onion & garlic until translucent but not brown. Add next ELEVEN ingredients; stir together. Cover & simmer for about 20 minutes.
  2. Add fish pieces, salt & pepper; stir gently, cover & cook for 5 minutes. Add scallops & clams, cover & cook for 5 minutes until scallops are opaque. Discard bay leaves. Serve.

Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes

At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.

Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.

Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.

Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.

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Vegetable Spaghetti (Squash) with Beef & Tomatoes
Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
Meat Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Serving
  1. Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.

Chili Con Carne with Cornbread

At this time of year, this hearty, easy to prepare meal seems to fit in nicely. Here in northern Alberta, Canada we are still in the midst of those cold winter temperatures.

Since the first recorded recipe, chili has been reinvented to include different spices and ingredients changing basic things like beef to chicken, chili peppers to jalapeno peppers and tomato sauce to chicken broth. The fact remains, it’s a great meal no matter what recipe you use or what the weather conditions are. 

Chili con carne, which is Spanish for ‘chili with meat’,  is a spicy ‘stew’ containing meat (usually beef) chili peppers or spice, tomatoes, garlic, onions and beans. Geographic and personal tastes involve different types of meat and ingredients. There has been much discussion and dispute that the word ‘chili’ applies only to the basic dish, without beans and tomatoes.

When Brion and I spent three months in Ecuador, we had rented a furnished apartment. The kitchen was very basic, but I could still enjoy preparing our meals. Being in Ecuador, one would have thought something as common place as ‘chili powder’ would be no problem to buy. After much searching, we finally gave up and I concocted my own version using black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne powder, onion powder, dried oregano and cumin. It actually tasted quite good. Cooking in Ecuador was a real learning curve. Due to the fact that even though you could buy similar ingredients to home, they tasted somewhat different.

Thinking back to my mother’s cooking, I don’t recall much about her chili but the cornbread she served with it was ‘to die for’. Once again, I’m sure so much of it was time and place.

Cornbread is a generic name for any number of quick breads containing cornmeal and are leavened with baking powder. The quintessential late 20th to early 21st century recipe contains baking powder for convenience, sugar for sweetness and flour and eggs for lightness. Cornbread is an interesting recipe to track through the past few centuries. It is such a prolific crop, grown in America, that it was consumed across class, race and regional lines. Corn lends itself to change very easily, giving way to variations of cornbread recipes. Although traditional cornbread was not sweet at all, regional preferences for sweetness in the recipe have developed.

In order to bake some cornbread in Ecuador, we purchased a package of yellow corn meal. Although it seemed to be very finely ground, I was able to make it work and we really enjoyed it. One day, while we were out walking we came upon a street vendor selling something called ‘Humitas’. We purchased a couple to take back to the apartment to try. Humitas are made of ground young corn, seasoned with egg, butter and possibly cheese wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. These had a bit of anise flavor which gave them a real unique flavor. Humitas are one of the most traditional of Ecuadorian recipes. The ingredients can vary by region, town or even in family recipes and can be sweet or salty. They differ from corn tamales in that they are steamed rather then boiled or baked. The corn used in making them is called ‘choclo’, also known as Peruvian or Cusco corn (named for the capital city of the Incas). This Andean corn has extra large, bulbous kernels almost five times larger than North American corn with a creamy texture. Every so often during our stay in Ecuador, we made a point of treating ourselves to some.

My story has got a little ‘long winded’ today, but I hope you have enjoyed it. I am posting my ‘tried and true’ recipes for Chili & Cornbread.  Hope you give them a try and enjoy!

Print Recipe
Chili Con Carne with Cornbread
One of those 'stick to your ribs', comfort food meals!
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Instructions
Chili
  1. In a large skillet, brown beef, onions, green pepper & spices until meat is thoroughly cooked & any liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans & water. Cook over medium - high heat until bubbly. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch round baking pan with parchment paper or a mini loaf pan. In a food processor or blender, pulse first 5 ingredients for a few seconds. Place in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together melted margarine, milk & egg. Combine wet & dry ingredients, mixing only until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Pour into baking pan(s) & bake for 20 minutes or until test done. Serves 8