Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Killing Two Birds with One Stone - Smoky Zucchini and Potato Stew
Killing Two Birds with One Stone - Smoky Zucchini and Potato Stew

Late summer is a time of plenty; plenty of sun, plenty of heat, and plenty of fresh local vegetables. One vegetable in particular, the lovely zucchini, is superabundant this time of year. It must be all that sun and heat. So come late summer we’re all looking for different ways to utilize that prolific green squash.

When I was growing up, a summertime staple for meatless Friday evening fare was giambotta, a simple, flavorful Italian zucchini and potato stew. Although a stew may sound heavy for hot weather, giambotta was a light and perfect summer meal, served with a fresh tomato salad and good crusty Italian bread.

A few years ago I encountered a recipe for what looked like a Mexican version of giambotta. The key ingredients were still there: zucchini, potatoes, onions, and garlic, but it had a few interesting twists, so I had to try it. It was wonderful and has now become a favorite meatless main dish.

Like most stews it is pure comfort food, loaded with chunks of tender vegetables in a light savory broth. Raising it a few notches above comfort food though, is the spicy heat and fragrant smokiness from the canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, which enriches the broth and makes it almost drinkable. The chunks of zucchini just thrive in that environment, absorbing the flavors and becoming so much more than plain old squash. The potatoes add an earthiness which reminds you, “Hey, I’m still comfort food”. It is a great combination of flavors that keeps your spoon going back to the bowl for more.

If you’re looking to feed vegetarians a delicious summer meal while using some of the overflowing zucchini crop, here is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

Smoky Potato and Zucchini Stew
Adapted from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Yield: 4 - 6 servings

If you don’t like things too spicy hot, use one of the smallest chiles from the can and scrape out the seeds and discard them.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced with 2 teaspoons of the sauce
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspons minced fresh oregano leaves or ¾ tsp dried
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
Fresh warm flour tortillas on the side

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other large pot. Add the onion and zucchini and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Add the chile, sauce, garlic, and oregano and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer until the stew thickens and the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro. Be gentle when stirring so as not to break the tender zucchini.

The stew can be covered and set aside for several hours. Reheat gently before serving.

Ladle the stew into bowls. Serve with fresh warm flour tortillas.

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