Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

With an endless supply of recipes out there, it’s helpful to have some superlatives from someone (a culinary professional) who can weed through the options-re: test, critique and take photos of the finished product. We’re going to start a series that shares some edited, tested recipes for you. Of course, we’d like your input. If you have a well-tested favorite-pass it along and we’ll share it. Recipes we chose will showcase seasonal ingredients and some local items, if available this time of year. We also like recipes which are relatively straight forward, use natural ingredients (not a lot of processed ingredients, instant or premade components). If ethnic recipes are shared (I would personally adore that), please make sure most of the ingredients are available in the mid-Atlantic.

We’re starting the offering with a simply sophisticated stew from good ol’ Rachel Ray. Fennel and dried apricots may not be common in your pantry but they make a beautiful combination with the tender pork. I have listed the anchovy as optional, however they add a depth of richness never to be tagged as “fish”.

For a vegetarian option you’ve got a spice spiked gumbo enlivened with rich mixed meaty mushrooms (which are local ingredients for us). The gumbo trades out the traditional red beans for black beans. You can add meat, poultry or seafood like shrimp or even crab meat if you want to make the dish more of a traditional gumbo.

The Stew Review will be continued after our upcoming Valentine Menu.


Pork Stew with Fennel & Apricots

from Everyday with Rachel Ray

Serves 4

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless pork butt (also called shoulder roast), cut into 2-inch flat strips
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium red onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1 large bulb fennel stems and fronds trimmed off and bulb quartered lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup dried apricots (about 4 ounces)

In a 6-qt. dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Working in batches, add the pork, season with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch; transfer to a bowl. Pour off the fat.

Add the onion, garlic, oregano, anchovies and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pork, fennel bulb and stems and the apricots, season again and press a piece of parchment on top. Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Discard the fennel stems, ladle the stew into large, shallow bowls and garnish with the fennel fronds.

AN EXTRA BUCK WILL BUY YOU...a bed of couscous. Scoop 1/2 cup cooked, salted couscous into each bowl before ladling in the stew.

Thicken It Up! For a heartier sauce, spoon out the meat and veggies, then let the juices cook until reduced.

Black Bean-Mushroom Gumbo

Serves 6

As with most Creole dishes, rice is the fitting accompaniment. You can skip the okra if it doesn't suit your fancy, but it is actually used as a thickener in most gumbo recipes hailing from Louisiana.



    2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 cups mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 - 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon gumbo file powder (optional)
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups cooked dried black beans OR 2 cans (15 oz ) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen okra, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook the mushrooms, onions, carrots, and bell peppers covered for 5 minutes.

Add the chili powder and optional gumbo file powder and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve immediately along with rice.


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