By Jennifer Stempel
(The Nosher via JTA) — Beans are a staple food on many Cuban dinner tables: They are inexpensive, can feed an army and are easily adaptable to whatever you find in your fridge and pantry.
There’s something about a pot of beans, simmering low and slow on the stove all day, allowing all of the flavors and aromas to release, that screams home-cooked comfort. Plus, nothing sticks to your ribs on a cold day better than a good bean soup or stew.
To be fair, I’d eat this even on a warm day. In fact, I remember a distinctively warm winter night in Santiago de Cuba, when after a grueling day of distributing humanitarian aid to those in need, my mom and I wanted nothing more than a good, hearty chickpea stew. Lucky for us, my mom’s cousin Virginia, who is known for being a great cook, surprised us that evening with exactly the comfort food that we had a hankering for.
That night, her chickpea stew included big chunks of sweet squash, creamy potatoes and hearty chard, all perfumed with the unmistakable smoky flavors of chorizo. As she explained to us, the No. 1 ingredient in Virginia’s now-famous chickpea stew is “lo que sea,” which translates to “whatever I can find.”
Since ingredients can sometimes be hard to come by in Santiago, Virginia has made a name for herself creating rich, indulgent meals using “lo que sea.” This stew was no exception. Ever since returning home, I’ve wanted to re-create it every chance I get. Even though ingredients are more readily available here, I still do my best to stay true to the “lo que sea” philosophy, and find myself adding whatever I find in my vegetable crisper and pantry that particular day.
So long as the base ingredients remain the same, you can really have fun experimenting with “lo que sea” the next time you try your hands at chickpea stew.
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces soy chorizo (soyrizo)or kosher chorizo such as Jack’s
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 carrots, sliced in rounds
Salt and pepper
1 large russet potato, cubed
1/2 kabocha squash, seeded and cut into large chunks, including peel
1 smoked turkey leg
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 quart chicken broth
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 bundle of chard, ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add soyrizo, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and carrot, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until unions are translucent.
Add the potato, squash, turkey leg, tomato sauce, broth, garbanzo beans and bay leaf. Cook until the potato and squash are fork tender.
Remove the bay leaf, turkey leg and squash pieces.
Shred the meat off the turkey leg and return to pot.
Remove the peel from the squash, dice the flesh and return to the pot. Add the chard and continue cooking until chard wilts.
Taste for seasoning, adjusting accordingly with salt and pepper.
(Jennifer Stempel is a TV development executive who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. When she’s not developing new TV shows, she enjoys teaching cooking classes and blogs about her experiments in the kitchen. To read more about her culinary adventures, check outwww.TheCubanReuben.com.)
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.