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Autumn finally arrived in New York this past week, after summer released its 80 degree strangle-hold on her citizens. The air conditioner has been put on sabbatical, the pipes of our 100+ year old house are cranking and clanging as steam heat attempts to sputter its way into our radiators, and I finally got to wear my red Fluevog boots after their too-long summer of hibernation. I couldn’t be happier. But if that weren’t enough…along with the switch over of the summer and winter wardrobes comes an even more exciting switch over, a recipe switch over, because autumn is officially soup and stew season.

My Veggie Stew recipe is a variation on my Grandmother’s Giambotta. I think it was by accident that I discovered that cumin and rosemary go so well together, and its a flavor that really shines when accompanied by fresh from the farmer’s market vegetables cooked for just the right amount of time over low heat.

Kitty’s Giambotta
4 – 6 servings

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch red or white swiss chard, roughly chopped
1 leek, whites & light green only, sliced
1/2 vidalia onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces (although I forgot them when I made this batch, add them before the squashes)
1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 squash cut into bite sized chunks
1 28oz can or box chopped Italian Roma tomatoes
1 14 oz can vegetable or chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, chopped, or 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
**If you like, add a rinsed can of chick-peas or cannelini beans during the last 20 minutes of cook time**

Step 1:  Heat a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  Add the onions with a small pinch of salt, and allow to sweat for 5 minutes.  Step 2:  Push the onions to the perimeter of the pot, and add the leeks to the center.  It’s important to make sure your leeks are very well washed, the dirt really hides in all the crevices.  Add another very small pinch of salt, and cook the leeks for 2 minutes. 

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Step 3:  Add the squash and zucchini to the center as you did the leeks, working in batches if there is not enough room for each piece to touch the pan.   The whole key to this recipe is giving each veggie thus far ample time at the bottom of the pan, so they all get a chance to carmelize and develop rich flavor.  Otherwise, it’s just going to be boiled vegetables. 

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Step 4:  Add your greens to the center of the pot.  At this point, you may close the lid on the pot for a minute or so to allow the greens to wilt down.  Stir them into the rest, and prepare the center of the pot for your spices.  Step 5:  Add the rosemary, cumin, and garlic to the center of the pan, and stir and toast them for 1 minute or so.  When the smell really hits your nose, stir everything together. 

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Step 6:  Add the tomatoes, and crank up the heat to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium, and reduce the broth for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes have developed a rich dark color, and the liquid has reduced by about half. 

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Step 7:  Add the stock and return to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  If you wish to add beans, do so during this step.

This is the version of Giambotta that I made at our 2004 Superbowl party (Go Eagles!), and I will say it again, this stew went just as fast as the huge pot of Michael Chiarello’s beef & pork chili I had made.  The aroma is so full and Fall-ish, and the consistency is so hearty, it’s downright meaty.  I make a big pot of it at least once or twice a month during the cold weather seasons.  It’s a perfect snack to come home to when you really need something warm and healthy to fill your belly with when you have 2 hours before dinner time. 

So, of course, it goes without saying, my husband doesn’t come near this stew with a ten foot pole.  But not to worry, I have a veggie fake-out recipe coming for you later this week that so tipped the scale on the veggie fake-out meter, I can barely even write about it yet, I am so excited.  Stay tuned…

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