It’s nearing harvest time on the farm. Although I live about two hours away from our family farms, I still look at the weather and wonder …
- have they started combining?
- beans or corn?
- did they get too much rain to be in the field?
- who’s taking dinner to the field today?
One thing to understand about family farming is just how many people are working together to complete the harvest. Someone is driving the combine. One or two people are driving tractors with wagons (or these days even semi trucks) to take the grain from the field to the farm or to the grain elevators in town. Someone is on the farm to unload the wagons/trucks into the grain storage units. Extra people are often needed to help move equipment from field to field. Someone feeds these people.
As you can imagine, it is not a sit-down dinner. Sandwiches packed quickly in the morning are most convenient. Occasionally, someone will run into town and pick up pizza or burgers for everyone. Most of the time, someone will offer to make a meal for the entire group. That meal is mobile. The person making and delivering the meal will load it up and make multiple stops to feed everyone involved.
the unnamed vegetable stew
As the weather cools, there is nothing more satisfying than a hot meal. Years ago, a dear friend, fellow church member, and hard-working farm wife, gave my mom instructions on a vegetable stew that she had made for our families as they harvested some fields together. It was not so much a recipe. It was “a little of this … a little of that … a lot of this … oh and a dash of Tabasco”. Stewed vegetables with a kick. Perfect!
Since it wasn’t a recipe, it never really had a name. We started calling it “Harvest Vegetables” because it was a great way to use the fall garden vegetables and was so appreciated by everyone participating in the harvest.
For the purpose of this blog, it was time to choose a name. The main elements of this dish are carrots, onions, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini. Improvisation is always acceptable. Add celery or eggplant, herbs or spices, meat or pasta. It is part bolognese and part ratatouille.
Bolognese is a tomato-based meat sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. Carrots, onion, and celery are commonly included and it is tossed into pasta. Parmesan cheese is sprinkled on top and the rind from the wedge of cheese is often added to the sauce as it cooks and removed before serving.
Ratatouille (the dish, not the Pixar animated film about a rat/chef named Remy – although I highly recommend that movie) is a French stew of tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers. Herbs typically added are bay leaf, thyme, fennel and basil.
This stew really is a combination of the two.
So which do you like better? Bolotouille? Or Ratanese?
I decided to keep it simple and name it Dorothy’s Harvest Vegetable Stew, after two of the kindest, most generous women I know: my mom and the woman who gave her the instructions, both named “Dorothy”. Is it any wonder that name means “Gift of God”?
serving and freezing suggestions
As directed in the recipe (and pictured below in the foreground), this dish makes a great accompaniment to:
- a beef or pork roast (try this Garlic-Crusted Balsamic Pork Loin)
- a roasted or fried chicken
- shrimp or salmon (try this Smoky Maple Salmon)
The bowl in the background contains a pureed version of the stew. For a thinner consistency, add the desired amount of tomato juice and simmer for a few minutes. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a few croutons makes a wonderful meal.
The puree also makes an amazing pasta sauce. Cook the pasta as directed and warm the sauce in a separate pan while the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta, toss in the sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and some toasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds.
The pureed vegetables freeze very well and make for a quick and easy soup or pasta meal … long after the harvest is complete.
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