A Blizzard Stew: Making the Most of What’s Left

Slim pickings at the grocery store for last-minute shoppers inspire a little creativity

January 27, 2015

Despite the drumbeat warnings of STORM APPROACHING, many waited until the eleventh hour to mosey over to the grocery store yesterday.

Did they know something everyone else did not? No.

They were secretly seeking hundreds of like-minded procrastinators. And they were in luck! However, if their hidden agenda was to also bring home some favorite foods such as asparagus, mushrooms, guacamole, and “yuppie greens” —you know, those baby kale and spinach leaves encased in plastic boxes—well, that ship already had sailed.

 At noon yesterday, parking spaces and shopping carts at Whole Foods in Cambridge were only available for those patient and willing enough to wait for them. That is to say, desperate people like me.

Harried workers scrambled to restock supplies. Basic items like milk, bread, eggs, orange juice, peanut butter, jelly, and bottled water were flying off the shelves. (Peanut butter and jelly? I guess folks were really planning to live it up.)

The meat counter choices were dwindling and prepared chicken stock was sold out. And the frenzy wasn’t limited to the Bay State.

 Making fun of the scene at Trader Joe’s in New York City Michael Haruto Oshima posted a haiku on facebook: “I fought a man for hummus but forgot pita chips.” And apparently soy milk and kale were not to be found at my son’s Park Slope market. 

Never mind. It’s time to put on our thinking caps and be creative while the snow piles up around us.

 Yesterday afternoon, I found plenty of lentils and rice on the shelves. Carrots, celery, and onions were well stocked, and fat Italian chicken sausages were at the meat counter for the taking. No easy-peasy baby or prepared greens, but I snatched the last remaining bunch of curly kale. My pantry at home had farro and canned tomatoes, so I made a filling lentil stew that could be duplicated with variations for anyone who didn’t quite make it to the market

Lentil stew with....
Serves 6

3 large Italian chicken sausages (about ¾ pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 carrots, cut into rounds
2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 ½ cups lentils (any color will do)
½ cup farro
1  (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
6 cups water or chicken stock
1 bunch curly kale, tough  stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
Plain Greek yogurt or crumbled feta cheese, for garnish

1. With a paring knife, prick the sausages in several places. Place them in a soup pot and cover with water. Over medium heat, simmer the sausages for 10 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a cutting board. Cool and cut into thick slices. Discard the water and wipe out the pot with a paper towel.

2. In the soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and coriander. Cook, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the lentils, farro, tomatoes, lemon juice, and water. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils and farro are tender. Garnish with a spoonful of plain yogurt or crumbled feta.

Pulling substitutions out of your pantry:

Sausage: Cooked bacon or salt pork would add flavor, or skip the meat and make a vegetarian stew.
Aromatics: onions, carrots, celery, and garlic are important, but if you’re missing one, just add more of the others.
Spices: If you don’t have coriander or don’t like it, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and even curry powder are good substitutions, alone or in combination.
Lentils/beans: Lentils cook quickly, but if you don’t have them, you could substitute 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, navy beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas.
Grains: Farro makes a nice change, but you could substitute rice, barley, or couscous.
Tomatoes: No diced tomatoes? Use tomato paste to taste or even 1 cup of mild flavored pasta sauce.
Kale: You can skip the greens, but if you have a package of frozen spinach in the freezer, you can still have that element in your soup.

Stay warm!

Photo by Luke N. Vargas, all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas, all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas all rights reserved

Photo by Luke N. Vargas all rights reserved