Sarah’s Porcini Winter Stew

My entry for the competition (sorry about the photo – it was so dark!). Porcini mushrooms mingle with fresh sage, butternut squash and beans in a warming winter stew. Serve with crusty bread!

Ingredients:

2 to 2 1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms or even better 2 fresh porcini

3 cups very hot water (if using dried porcini)
1 tbs. olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 small chilies, seeded and minced
2 carrots finely grated
2 sticks celery finely chopped
2 tins tomatoes or 1lb fresh tomatoes
2 tsp. minced fresh sage
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 can cannellini beans
1 can Ceci or chick pea
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Chopped fresh parsley for sprinkling

Directions

1. If using dried porcini, place in a sieve and rinse briefly with cold water. Place into a bowl and add the very hot water. Let them soak until the mushrooms are softened, about 20 minutes.

2. In a large, heavy pan, over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, chilies and sage and sauté until the onions are tender, about 8 minutes.

3. Add the squash, carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper. sauté until everything starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the cannellini beans, the ceci, tomato paste and the broth.

5. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl. Drain the porcini in the sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible from the mushrooms.

6. Add the liquid to the pan.

7. Chop the porcini (fresh or dried) and add to the pot.

8. Simmer until the squash is tender and the flavors blend, about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

8. Ladle the stew into warmed bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Serves 6 to 8

For a heartier meal with extra protein, add sausage slices, chopped pancetta, a ham hock or diced smoked turkey. If using a ham hock, simmer it whole in the stew, then remove the meat from the bone, chop it and stir the chopped meat back into the stew. If you like, rosemary could replace the sage.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Weeknight Fresh & Fast, by Kristine Kidd

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