This is a beautifully complex-tasting but simple-to-make dish. To tweak it to be healthier, I skewed the stew to go heavy on the greens and okra and light on the peanuts. Spinach is traditionally used, but Swiss chard, collards, and lacinato kale work well, too. If using mixed baby leaves, there is no need to remove the stems or tear the leaves.
Serves 3 to 4
1 medium red onion, cut in medium dice
A bit of no-sodium vegetable broth for sautéing
1 large carrot, cut in large dice
1 medium orange sweet potato, peeled, cut in large dice
1 medium white sweet potato, peeled, cut in large dice
2 green Thai chilies, minced
14 ounces whole San Marzano tomatoes, roughly chopped, and their juices
5 cups packed spinach, chard, baby greens, or collard or kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1½ cups young small okra, cut in ½-inch slices
¼ cup raw unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
Several good grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon aka (red) miso paste, or to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves
- Heat a large stainless-steel skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the onions and dry sauté, stirring occasionally as they release their water and caramelize the pan. Deglaze the pan with broth, scraping up the sugars that have adhered to the bottom with a wooden spoon.
- Lower the heat slightly. Add the carrots, sweet potatoes, and chilies. Cook for about 2 minutes, stir, then add the tomatoes with their juices. If you are using tougher greens like collards or kale, add them now. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour in 2½ cups of the broth, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- When the vegetables have softened, add the okra and peanuts. Cover the pan but stir often to prevent sticking as the stew simmers for another 15 minutes. If you are using tender greens like spinach, chard, or baby greens, add them now and simmer for 3 minutes. Taste and season it with pepper to taste.
- When the vegetables are tender but still intact and fragrant, turn off the heat. Dissolve the miso in the remaining broth and add it to the stew to season. Serve in warmed bowls alongside or atop whole grains. Garnish with cilantro.
Braised Splayed Eggplant
Eggplant’s exquisite creaminess shines in this luscious dish. Caramelized sweet onion, heirloom tomatoes, sweet mini bell peppers, and garlic are sandwiched between splayed slices of eggplant, softened on the stovetop, then braised in their own juices in a hot oven. This literally melts in your mouth. It is delicious plated with a good smear of Garlic-Herb Sauce, which plays counterpoint to the eggplant’s sweetness. Modern varieties of eggplant are not bitter and require no pre-salting or peeling.
6 firm medium Italian eggplants
3 sweet onions like Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla, cut in ½-inch slices
3 large heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cut in ½-inch slices
8 ounces mini bell peppers (a mixture of colors), cored and seeded
1 head dry-roasted garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
Up to 2 cups no-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup Garlic-Herb Sauce
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Trim the tough outer layer of each eggplant’s stem, then make lengthwise slits ½-inch apart from their bases to 1 inch from the top. Fill the slits in the eggplants alternately with the onions, tomatoes, and mini peppers, slipping in the roasted garlic cloves.
- Tightly arrange the stuffed eggplants in one large or two smaller ovenproof skillets and season them generously with oregano (½ teaspoon per eggplant) and several grinds of black pepper. Add broth to come ½ inch up the sides of the pan, cover, and simmer on the stovetop for 30 minutes. Check periodically, adding more liquid if needed. Begin checking at 20 minutes; the eggplants are ready when a fork easily penetrates the flesh.
- Remove the cover. The vegetables will have released additional liquid. Pour out the excess, leaving ½ inch of juice in the pan. Bake the eggplants, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. If liquid continues to build, remove the excess again, leaving just ½ inch in the pan. Brush the vegetables with their braising liquid and return to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the onions, peppers, and tomatoes have caramelized and the eggplants have begun to collapse.
- Remove them from the oven and brush with braising liquid. Serve hot with plenty of Garlic-Herb Sauce, either thickly smeared on the plate or diluted with water into a pourable sauce to dress the eggplant.
Cathy Katin-Grazzini is a plant-based chef and cookbook author of Love the Foods that Love You Back. She is Food Editor for VEGWORLD magazine, and manages her blog, Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription, where she shares her latest recipes and guidance on sustainable, healthy, vegan cooking, nutrition, and lifestyle. Certified in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell, she went on to complete professional culinary training at Rouxbe Cooking School. Katin-Grazzini is a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and trained as a PCRM Food for Life instructor. She and her husband, Giordano Katin-Grazzini, who photographed the cookbook, live in Ridgefield, Connecticut.