When the last of Bob and Charlotte's canoe-size zucchini appeared in my car (how careless of me to leave the car unlocked in their driveway), I planned to turn that zucchini, along with a few trimmings of some very ripe tomatoes, into a curry. Along the way, however, cinnamon and cumin called out to me, and just like that, this mildly spicy vegan zucchini and tomato stew veered off toward the Middle East. A few sprigs of mint from my garden gave the dish just the right amount of brightness, without overwhelming the delicate zucchini flavor, and turmeric turned it a glowing golden color. As with all stews, this was even better on the second day, served over fluffy brown rice.
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Often the best soups in my kitchen result from adding extra liquid -- stock or broth, juice, or water -- to stews or pasta dishes. Culinary magic works the other way around, too, and this smoky turkey, black bean and corn chili proves that a great soup can morph into an equally great something else. Use a bit of tough love and withhold some of the liquid in this recipe for chipotle turkey, black bean and corn soup, and watch a glorious chili emerge from the pot. Substitute freely: red beans for black, ground chicken (or beef) for turkey, fresh corn or tomato in season. The mild green chile peppers plus green Tabasco (also mild), with a hint of chipotle, add up to warmth rather than searing heat, and if you like your chili on the sweet side, squirt some agave nectar into the pot at the end.
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While it's true that Rival invented the Crock-Pot®, back in 1971, the company didn't invent slow cooking. Clay pots, tagines and Dutch ovens all predate the electric slow cooker. This chicken and white bean stew springs from the French farmhouse tradition of slow cooking in a pot set into the fireplace. Today, thanks to an inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment (the slow cooker I used for this recipe cost less than $20), I can make stew without hauling in wood, building a fire, raking the embers, and lugging a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven from the kitchen to set into the hearth. Lemon and garlic create the flavor base for this healthy, naturally gluten-free stew, which, like most stews, tastes even better the second day.
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When the aroma of cinnamon fills the house, I follow my nose to the kitchen, expecting to discover muffins or baked apples in the oven. Sometimes, the intoxicating smell of cinnamon comes from something even better: a savory, Moroccan-inspired vegan butternut squash and chickpea stew in a tomato sauce infused with cinnamon and coriander. A hint of smoky-hot harissa, the assertive North African pepper paste, balances the sweetness of the squash, and seems absolutely necessary here. (Kathy, my spicy-food-averse cooking assistant, loved the gentle heat, so you know it's not too spicy.) Make this stew up to three days ahead, or freeze it; like most stews, it's even better on the second day. Serve over couscous or rice, as the centerpiece of a vegan meal, or as a side dish with grilled lamb or fish.
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