by Rebecca Fallihee
Mushroom, Butternut and Butter Bean Stew, serves 4-6
When it’s cold and wintry outside, this is the stew to come in and warm up with after a long run. It’s also incredibly flavorful and wholesome, providing a balance to some of the treats and feasts of the season. Mushrooms of any type can be used here, and are wonderful for eating in the winter. They are known to benefit the immune system through modulation of the inflammatory process. Most helpful culinary mushrooms to choose include maitake, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, but I’ve simply used brown cremini’s here.
Butter beans are also known as lima beans, but be sure to buy the mature, dry beans and cook them ahead of time, or opt for canned beans instead of the immature, frozen ones.
One special note about this stew is that I’ve used the four corners of flavor here. In creating dishes that are round in flavor and truly delicious, it’s often helpful to make sure they have four flavor components. These include fat, an acid, salt, and a sweet note, or FASS. For each of the four components, a little can go a long way.
When refining flavors, make sure the dish is at the temperature you will serve it at, as the flavors will change depending on whether you are tasting it hot or cold.
For any given recipe, it is likely that a fat source as either butter or an oil will likely be used in building the base. The fat type can add flavor if it is intended to, or if added near the end as either a cream or nut cream, can add mouth feel and a change in texture as well. Adding a fat such as lightly toasted and chopped nuts can also be a flavor-enhancing garnish to round out a finished recipe. The walnuts in this stew add an incredible richness and textural contrast.
As an acid component, a squeeze or two of lemon juice or one of the many types of vinegar can be added. The small amount of acid added at the end of cooking will enhance and sharpen the other flavors of the dish.
Salt, the third component, is likely the most important and can really heighten the other flavors. The right amount of salt is a very personal thing and it can easily be overdone to the recipe’s detriment, so add it in small amounts and taste as you go. You will know when you’ve added the right amount, but if you’re the extreme athlete of your household, you might consider slightly under-salting and letting everyone refine their amount at the dinner table, as you will likely desire more salt than others.
The fourth corner is a sweet note. Depending on ingredients, you might already have a sweet component, as there is here with the butternut squash. The sweet flavor balances and rounds the stew and also will satiate the appetite, which is why if it is missing from a meal, we often finish wanting more, even though we’re physically full.
2-3 tsp. coconut or olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 small butternut squash (1 lb), peeled and diced
4-6 cups vegetable broth or water
2 tsp. low-sodium tamari or coconut aminos
3 cups cooked butter beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup raw walnuts, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups kale or similar dark leafy greens, chopped
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 large handful of parsley or cilantro, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Sauté until translucent, then add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and oregano, and cook until the mushrooms are soft.
- Add the butternut squash, 4 cups of broth or water or broth, and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. You will likely need at least 1 tsp. or more of salt but taste as you go.
- Stir in the beans, chopped walnuts, kale, and additional water as necessary. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes for the greens to wilt and the stew to simmer.
- Add in a splash of apple cider vinegar to balance, and taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.
- Serve alone, or over mashed potatoes, a cooked grain such as brown or wild rice, millet, or quinoa, or a hearty slice of toasted sourdough.
Read more from Rebecca here.