Working With What You Have: Spring Vegetable Stew

EVENT: Book Editing Crunchtime
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Park Slope
TYPE: Weekday Working Lunch
MENU: Potato, Corn, and Asparagus Stew; Ciabatta; San Pellegrino

I pulled one or two all-nighters working on essays my freshman year in college. I hung out with friends, watched the sun rise, and at some point put the finishing touches on a silly 5-7 page essay whose deadline had crept up on me. After that, I stopped pulling all-nighters for schoolwork and only stayed up late for fun. Nerd that I am, I decided it made a lot more sense to think about deadlines a week or a month in advance.

We really didn’t have that much time to put together this book. Even in November, when we wrote leisurely paragraphs about cooking and life, I think we knew how quickly June would come. We kept the last two weeks in May pretty void of fun social plans, in order to focus on pulling everything together. Because, though we’d been working hard for months, there was still a lot to do to get it all in shipshape.
Writing a book with two people has got to be a weirder and more convoluted process than writing a book authored by only one, though admittedly I’ve never done either one before. We’re lucky to have built-in critics, editors, mentors, and compliment-givers in each other. But we’re also cursed by the fact that only one person can work on a document at a given time, by the fact that inspiration may strike us at utterly different moments, and by the fact that literally writing together, in the same room, at one computer, can be pretty tedious.
But that’s how we spent the last few days with our baby, the book. In order to make sure that we were each really and truly happy with every line we were sending off to Katie, our editor, we sat side by side on couches and typed in changes, read paragraphs aloud, and struck weird words and phrases like “exquisite exhaustion” from the record. This took a while, and for sustenance, we fed each other. We also drank sparkling water, which seems to be our lifeblood. But we never stayed up late.
I made this simple spring stew on the morning of the last afternoon of editing, before Phoebe arrived. Now that the recipe development for the book was complete, my fridge had decided to breathe its last, and I was doing my best to get through everything in it before I let it defrost–that’s the reason for the ingredients involved here. And the stew certainly is humble, based on the ingredients in my fridge and made during last-minute working hours, but it’s also richly flavored and satisfying. We ate it on my couch, topped with slivers of pecorino and a mini ciabatta, which Phoebe had toted to my apartment along with a bottle of special-treat Pellegrino.
From my kitchen, where crunchtime meals are eaten at 1pm, not 3am, to yours,


Potato, Corn, and Asparagus Stew

Serves 2

In summer, fresh tomatoes, new potatoes, and corn cut from the cob make the stew transcendent. Substitute string beans for the asparagus when they’re out of season.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8″ thin
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 lb asparagus, tripped and cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/4 cup torn basil leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the sliced potatoes and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, making sure the potatoes are covered in oil. Raise the heat slightly and add the wine wine, then let it reduce a minute or so before adding the water, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Bring this to a boil, then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potato slices are tender. Add the asparagus, stir to distribute, and cover again. Cook for about five minutes, until the asparagus are cooked but not limp. Add the corn and cook for just a minute, til heated through. Then sprinkle the basil leaves and mix them in. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, taste for salt, and serve. This is great made in advance and reheated.

  • Lenore @ Lather Write Repeat.

    I think you’ve inspired me to make a stew with whatevers in the fridge tonight! I have everything except the asparagus but I’m sure I’ll find something in there worth throwing in! Thanks so much.


  • Lainey_Elizabeth

    I am in a crunch time, studying for a big exam tomorrow. I took a break to look at your blog, now I think in a few minutes I will be taking a break to make some stew…Thanks!

  • Grace

    This looks delicious! And, it’s all my favorite veggies. This is a must try recipe!

  • Amateur Cook

    I love working with what I have when a meal hasn’t been thought out.  And this recipe is exactly the sort of food I like to make on those occasions. This ones now in my collection!

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