go-to meal: late-summer stew

go-to meals: straight-forward, no-fail and practically no-think dinners for *those* nights. and if it’s one of those nights, dinner had better be good.

This is a “happy accident” recipe. It was quite a surprise that it turned out so well (accident) and I have made it quickly and easily since its origin with the same satisfying (happy) results.

Originally I intended to make some sort of corn bouillabaisse meets paella concoction but couldn’t be bothered to toast the rice, didn’t want to think about cleaning my paella pan, and ran out of time to simmer corn cobs in water to make a sweet broth. It’s an idea I dropped after I promised myself to bank it for trials another time (conveniently omitting from consciousness that the next time I was going to work with enough summer-sweet corn would be, oh in another 4 seasons from now) and then I dropped the rice altogether and added my lies and laziness to a big pot with some great summer vegetables, simmered and stirred.

So to recap: couldn’t be bothered, didn’t want to clean plus ran out of time came together they way they do on busy nights, and mixed with late-summer vegetables you get my latest go-to meal.

Leave very soft cheese out of the fridge right at the start so it’s soft-as-butter and perfect for spreading on bread to go-with. I’m assuming you’re having wine with every dinner and know what to do there so let’s not even discuss it.

Late-Summer Stew

*Attempt to cut corn cobs only with a strong, sharp knife, cleaver or sturdy bread knife and keep your fingers safe. Turning the cob while rocking the blade accross the core of the cob should work. If this is too hard you can trim the kernals off the cob instead and leave them in largish sections if you’d like.

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, finely diced
1 tbs harissa paste (substitue 1 tbs tomato paste and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional heat) if you can’t find harissa)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 lb okra, trimmed and sliced crosswise into small pieces
3 ears of corn, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into roughly 1 1/2″ pieces*
1 large zucchini, trimmed and diced
4 large, ripe tomatoes and their juice, cored and diced
1 large handful chopped cilantro (or basil if you prefer), stems and leaves
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 c water

Heat oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add onion and potato and cook, stirring, until the onions start to soften. Add the harissa and paprika, stir well and cook for 1 minute, then add the okra, stir and cook for a couple of minutes more until the okra softens. Add the corn and stir well to coat the kernels well in the spices. Then add the remaining ingredients, stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve.

Makes 4 generous servings.