Thursday, December 24, 2009

Corn and white bean stew with a carrot juice base

I've been craving stew these days, and finding this recipe for smoked paprika corn dumplings yesterday inspired me to create a stew especially for them. Disappointingly, the dumplings weren't all that great, in my opinion—they took a full half hour to cook and then had a kind of dusty corn chip taste and texture that I didn't much like. For me, they would have been better in every way had the corn chips (and the corn) been replaced with whole wheat flour and maybe a little cornmeal. Then, also, you wouldn't have to make them in the food processor. Next time!

The stew, however, rocked. It was based on the corn and lima bean ragout from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. However, that ragout is not something you want to cook dumplings in, since it's a very quick fresh stew (with an awful lot of corn in it—4 cups to 1 1/2 cups lima beans and not really any other substantial ingredients) that gets to actually stew for just a few minutes, but there was a really neat idea in it, in the use of carrot juice as a stock. Ms. Madison writes that "Carrot juice gives this ragout a soft glow and delicate sweetness," and she is quite right.

Carrot juice is one of those drinks I craved for years without ever having an opportunity to taste it. Readers of this blog may be familiar with my longtime culinary carrot fetish, which began when I could only bang my baby spoon on the highchair tray and scream for what I wanted—but my mom got the message, and my babyhood was pretty much all carrots all the time. Although I now enjoy other food items as well, carrots still hold a warm orange place at the centre of my heart. But in my youth and early adulthood carrot juice was very expensive, when you could get it at all, and I was in my 40s before I got to try it at a farmers' market, $5.00 for about a cup and a half. But oh, what heaven! I don't have a juicer and don't want one because of the hassle of disposing of the pulp, not to mention appliance storage issues, so I didn't try it again until this recent commercial juice-and-smoothie craze brought the Bolthouse Farms brand of carrot juice into grocery stores at a pretty reasonable price. So yay for Bolthouse Farms! Now my fridge is never without a big bottle of it. Mostly I drink it plain, but I'd like to cook with it more, and this is one of the first things I've tried.

Corn and white bean stew with a carrot juice base
serves 4 generously

2 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1 bay leaf
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 potato, diced
2 cups peeled and diced acorn or butternut squash
3/4 cups carrot juice
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups white beans (navy, cannellini, even garbanzo)
large handful of dehydrated carrots, crumbled or chopped, or 1/2 cup canned chopped diced tomatoes, with juice
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, finely sliced
1/4 cup cilantro
sambal olek (garlic chili sauce) to taste; I used about 3 tbsp for a fiery stew
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the onion in a medium-large stew pot, and, when hot, add the diced onion and bay leaf. Sauté until the onion turns translucent, then add the corn kernels and sauté three minutes more. Add the potato and squash and continue to cook until the vegetables are hot.

Add the carrot juice, stock, tomatoes, beans, and scallions, and bring the stew to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, covered, until all of the vegetables are tender, 30-40 minutes. If you're cooking dumplings right in the stew, drop them in around 10 minutes or so into the simmering process.

Now add cilantro, sambal olek, and salt and pepper to taste, and serve!


  1. I've never thought to cook with carrot juice, but it makes so much sense. The stew looks fabulous and very comforting! I'll have to try this sometime.

  2. This looks so good. I am going to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing. :)

    Sailu @ Indian Recipes and Indian Recipes for Kids