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It Must Suck to be a Vegetarian.

June 1, 2007

South African Peanut Stew

I concede the point that it’s wise and healthy to consort with meaty foods less frequently, but sometimes I concoct a recipe from the pages of a vegetarian cookbook or Vegetarian Times that just makes me feel bad for vegetarians. It’s not even that this tasted so terrible. But look at it! Monochromatic mush. And the original recipe from Vegetarian Times included no seasonings. Not even salt and pepper. In fact, while I set out to follow this recipe exactly, I had to give up halfway through because the recipe just seemed illogical, like someone in their test kitchen had been a little high the day it was written. Mr. X and I were both baffled when we read that butternut squash was supposed to cook thoroughly, in very little liquid, in 15 minutes. And we were a little worried when we read that we were meant to make a peanut sauce out of peanut butter and water. Just peanut butter and water. That, my friends, is not a sauce.

I will reiterate that this tasted fine. A little one-dimensional, perhaps, but fine. Not nearly as peanuty as I wanted, but fine. Definitely should have been in the January issue, rather than the May/June issue, what with all the root vegetables, but it was fine. My first thought when we started eating was, “How can I re-create this to be even better?” I suspect that if it’s re-tooled just a little, it could be a winter dinnertime staple. As long as I don’t mind that it will probably always be monochromatic mush.

South African Peanut Tomato Stew

(Adapted from Vegetarian Times’s Spicy Peanut Stew, which recipe I cannot find online.)

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced (I had to use a bit of ground, because our ginger wasn’t as fresh as I thought)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (or diced would work, too)
  • 3 pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable stock
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower, cut up
  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter (use the natural kind, people. No one needs that extra sugar.)
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • some brown rice for serving

I guess it’s kind of ok that I can’t find a link for the original recipe, because I changed it up quite a bit. It only called for 14 ounces of crushed tomatoes, and no broth, and all the vegetables were supposed to cook thoroughly in that in 15 minutes. We just thought it seemed impossible. And, as I said, there were no seasonings in the original recipe. Did I miss the memo where salt and pepper are not vegetarian?

Vegetarian Mush

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and the celery, stir to coat them all up in oil, and then let them cook for about five minutes, stirring only every now and then. When the onions have only just started to brown, add the garlic and ginger, and stir it all up again. Let it all cook for another five minutes.

Add the potato, cauliflower, squash, cauliflower, tomatoes, jalapenos, and vegetable stock. Stir it all together, lower the heat a titch, cover the pot, and let it all cook for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. I think we cooked it too long, assuming that the squash and potato would take way longer than 15 minutes. That probably contributed to the mush factor. 15 minutes will probably be ok.

Meanwhile, whisk together the peanut butter, half a cup of warm water, the soy sauce and chili powder.

Once the vegetables are cooked, stir the peanut butter sauce into the stew, and  let it cook for another few minutes, until it thickens up a bit. Season with salt and pepper and serve it over rice, and you’ve got a South African-style vegetarian meal.

Perhaps I have been a little too hard on this dinner. To be honest, I’m eating the leftovers right now, and overnight they had a good chance to improve. The flavors have blended together a little. The peanut taste is coming out a bit more. The cauliflower is really very delicious, almost nutty. I’m not sure how this would have come out if I’d followed the directions, though my guess is it would have been a little bland. But I’m being a little unfair, knocking it so hard. Sure, it’s not photogenic. Sure, there’s no bacon in it. That doesn’t mean I should make fun of it!

So, perhaps come next winter you’ll see some further experimentation with this hearty vegetable-happy stew. Or, perhaps not.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2007 6:51 am

    lol You crack me up. Well at least it was fine and not like bleccchhh, eh? I kinda hope you do mess with this again – as it does sound as if it’s got lots of potential.. and why’d ya say bacon? Cuz now I’m thinkin’ bacon would be perfect in this stew that would no longer be vegetarian.. (not that there’s anything wrong with that)


  2. Nicole permalink
    June 2, 2007 6:34 pm

    It really isn’t that bad to be veggie. Just a lot of experimentation. In fact the few times I’ve eaten meat, I’ve found it to be overrated.

  3. June 4, 2007 10:56 am

    Eh, we were mostly being tongue in cheek when we said vegetarianism must suck. I eat like a vegetarian most nights of the week. But I have to protest: Bacon is totally not overrated. Bacon is a gift from the gods.

  4. March 17, 2008 11:03 am

    giggle. monochromatic mush. giggle. :) That’s going to make my day. As someone who gave up meat for Lent, and is feeling guilty that I find the success rate of vegetarian recipes to be way too freakin’ low (It seems so un-P.C. to say so…), this post was incredibly gratifying.

  5. Clare permalink
    June 15, 2008 2:08 am

    Ew, that does look gross. I’m a vegan and I eat things way better than that. There was one recipe in the latest Vegetarian Times, and it was like, Spicy Orange Glazed Tofu or something over Confetti Rice, and it looked and tasted very good. If you want some REAL veg food, check out the cookbook Vegan with a Vengeance.

  6. sheree permalink
    October 12, 2008 10:10 am

    i dont think it looks that bad actually…..
    and most vegetarian foods are really nice like cheese pasta, not made specifically 4 vegetarians but contains no meat. :]

  7. wererabbits permalink
    February 23, 2009 2:02 am

    Haha, from what I have seen on my colleagues’ lunch plates monochromatic mush applies equally to vegetarian and non-veggie dishes alike :)
    The stew sounds good, with a bit of tweaking I’m sure it’s possible to make it look good as well. Hmm… maybe add some zucchini?



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