Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Harvest Stew

LESLIE: A few years ago, after the epic month in France that turned Mr. Right and me into serious home cooks, we took a knife skills class at the local community college. We’re probably due for a refresher, and maybe the meat and poultry version, but I have to tell you, lining up the veggies for a big soup or stew, or a chopped salad, got a lot easier.

Before the class, we had only one chef’s knife, a lovely 10" from a set of Henckels an old boyfriend had given me. That Christmas, we were definitely on the same page. We each bought the other one a chef’s knife and a French cookbook!

And this soup, based on a recipe published in the Missoulian a few years ago by Greg Patent, a renowned cookbook author who lives in Western Montana, does require a fair amount of chopping. The upside is that it makes a lot, and as with most soups, the flavor improves over time. So you’ll get at least another dinner and maybe a couple of lunches for the extra effort. The flip side is that it doesn’t require a long simmer, so you’ll save a little time that way.

The Parmesan broth is the curiosity here. If, like us, you often buy Parmesan or Asiago in chunks and grate it yourself, toss the rinds and last chunks in a sealed bag in the back of your cheese drawer in the fridge, or in the freezer, and when you’ve got half a cup or so, make this stew. If you don’t have any rinds, use a good vegetable broth and add lots of Parmesan later. The last time we made this, I added about one additional cup of broth to thin the soup.

I’ve always added the kale in the order written, but it might work to add it at the end, with the corn and zucchini, to keep that brighter color.

A mix of red and white potatoes works nicely—not Russets, best for baking, but Yukon Gold or another white with a slightly waxy yellow skin.

If you’re not accustomed to using leeks, be aware that they can hold a lot of dirt, but are easy to clean. Trim the root end and cut off most of the dark green leaves, leaving a couple inches of the paler green above the white. Then slice the leek in half lengthwise. To wash, hold each half under a stream of running water. You’ll see the dirt magically float away.

As Patent notes in the original recipe, you could also use chard leaves, diced sweet potato, parsnip, or rutabaga. A spoonful of basil pesto is a lovely garnish, but not necessary. The bread and wine, however, are essential!

Harvest Stew 

4 ounces Parmesan rinds
4 cups water, plus more as needed (or other broth if you don’t have rinds)
1 bunch kale, tough stems and ribs removed, and coarsely chopped
Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots (8 ounces total), diced
1 large leek, white portion plus one inch of the light green, washed well, sliced thin
1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (peeling isn’t necessary)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried whole thyme leaves
1 pound fresh tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large can (16 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium zucchini (8 ounces total), cut into 1/2-inch cubes, or butternut or other squash
1 cup corn (I used frozen and didn’t thaw it first)
1 cup chopped parsley

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

If you’re using Parmesan rinds, put them into a large microwave-safe bowl and add the 4 cups of water. Cook on high power 4 to 5 minutes, until the rinds are softened and the water has a definite Parmesan flavor. Spoon out the rinds and cheese chunks, and set the broth aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop in the kale leaves. Cook, uncovered, until kale is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour into a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Allow to drain well.


Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil into a large stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, carrots, leek, and potatoes. Stir well, cover, and cook 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme, kale, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and broth. Stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and corn kernels, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, just until zucchini begins to brown. Add to soup along with the parsley. 

If the soup is too thick, add more vegetable broth or water. Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

A crusty loaf of bread and a glass of wine make this a bit of winter heaven.

Makes 6 servings.

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Oh! We do have chunks of parm that needs to be used. This is perfect.

    1. The broth is surprising and fun -- I hope you enjoy it!

  2. What a lovely colorful winter dish! All cooks need to know that a good--and sharp!--knife is essential. Otherwise what you're chopping squirts all over your work surface and comes out ugly (we won't mention the risk to your fingers if a dull knife slips!) Recently I've found I feel a sort of peace when I chop lots of vegetables--it's oddly soothing.

    1. I'll second the knife tip! I'm lucky to have a number of great knives that my late husband brought home from a business trip to Germany (imagine doing that today!) but my favorite is a Sabatier that is NOT stainless steel. It's the sharpest knife in the drawer lol.

    2. Sheila, yes, I enjoy the meditative quality of it, too -- as long as I don't zone out entirely!

      Peg, what a treasure those knives are!

    3. Peg, I second the vote for Sabatier. I bought myself one when I was in college (and used and sharpened it so much that it was no longer straight enough to chop). But I have a Sabatier carbon-steel paring knife from the same era that I still use constantly, and it outperforms any knife I've bought since. It's sharp!

  3. This sounds heavenly! And I happen to have some Parmesan rinds on hand!

  4. What a terrific post! I showed it to my hubby and he now wants his own copy. Thanks, Leslie!

  5. This looks beautiful! And must taste great, too.
    I like the idea of putting the kale in later. It looks so wonderful when it's bright green, but quickly cooks to a blah color.

    1. I will definitely do that the next time. It just needs a very quick cooking, after all, as we know from kale caesars and stir-fries. And the color of this dish is a big part of its appeal.