cooking with zero watts & veggie chickpea butternut squash stew with buckwheat

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i’m at it again. making some form of soup/stew/chowder. ‘when will it end??’ you wonder? — probably never. well, at least not till the weather warms up and my ingredient list expands back to a plethora of fruits and veggies. but for now it’s winter and it’s stew season. this recipe was inspired from a vegetarian times recipes i came across. but alas, i have no canned butternut squash soup (nor couscous) available at hand, so like all my recipes, it’s made from scratch. the best way i might add.

this week i skyped with a good friend back home. she just moved into a condo with her husband and showed me a virtual tour of their new place. i couldn’t stop ooh-ing and ahh-ing. it made me so anxious to someday have a place of my own when i move back to america. the kitchen was to die for and certainly different from my own little ukrainian one.

like most newly wed homes, the counters were filled with every kitchen appliance possible. she listed them off: bread machine, panini grill, stand mixer, toaster, etc…and i realized…i don’t have a single electrical appliance (okay, minus my fridge and electric tea kettle which also doubles as my hot water heater for bucket bathing). i have a gas stove and oven, but no toaster or microwave — things i used on a daily basis in america.

i’ve gone 21 months without all of those accessories. sure i wish i had some, who wouldn’t want a kitchen aid mixer or toaster? i’ve come to terms with the fact that no matter now hard i whip my eggs by hand they’ll never peak like they would with a mixer. but such is life and i’ve learned to live without — one of the major themes of my peace corps experience.

i’ve come to enjoy cooking and baking with only my muscles and elbow grease for electrical appliances. it’s invigorating, challenging, and in some ways therapeutic. for almost all of my meals i’ve witnessed raw materials become the plated meal before me. there’s no cheating or taking an easy way out. in my opinion, the time i spend laboriously making my meals makes it taste all the better.

this dish started out the same: simple raw ingredients. i cooked the chickpeas the morning of, made the soup base in the afternoon, and finished the rest in the evening. of course i don’t expect everyone to cook like this, i just happen to sometimes have a lot of time on my hands. but i encourage you to try, at least once, to cook with only your energy for wattage.

veggie butternut squash chickpea stew with buckwheat

adapted from vegetarian times
serves: 8

for the soup base:

6 cups chopped (one inch cubes) butternut squash
3 cups water
1 bullion cube
2 tbs sour cream
1 tsp marjoram

for the stew:

2 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups zucchini (or kabachok)
salt and pepper

for the buckwheat:

1 1/2 cups toasted buckwheat (rinsed)
3 cups water
1 bullion cube

1.) for the chickpeas:

(soak dried beans over-night in water. they will expand twice their size. do not place in fridge. i usually just cook a decent amount and freeze the rest for later)

cook pre-soaked and rinsed chickpeas in enough water (1-2 inches above the beans) in a large pot. add basil and oregano to the water (do not salt). cook covered on a low simmer for 2.5-3 hours or until tender, adjusting waterlevel as necessary. stir ocassionally and skim off any foam build-up. once cooked, rinse and set aside.

2.) cube butternut squash. add all soup base ingredients to a casserole dish. bring soup to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until squash is tender. once cooked, mash with potato masher.

3.) heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. sauté carrot in oil 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened. add onion and zucchini and sauté 3 to 5 minutes more, or until soft. stir in cumin seeds and bay leaf.

4.) mash 3/4 cup chickpeas and add them to soup base. then add to carrot zucchini mixture along with remaining chickpeas and soup. simmer 15 to 20 minutes. season with salt and pepper.

5.) meanwhile, in a casserole pot bring water for the buckwheat to a boil. add bullion cube and buckwheat. simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally or when most moisture is gone.

6.) ladle stew onto plate with a side of buckwheat. enjoy : )

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