Sometimes I look at what’s in my cupboards and sigh one of those sighs that translates to “let’s order pizza”, and if Justin happens to be in ear shot, he sighs in harmony and within half an hour, there’s a stuffed crust pizza on the living room table and we are equal parts happy and sad.
But tonight, I did not sigh at the f**k tons of beans and chopped tomatoes, or the half empty jars of spices and herbs. Tonight I saw an opportunity to be completely creative. I usually have a recipe in front of me when I cook, whether one of my own, or from a book or website. But tonight I wanted to create and design something from scratch again. And boy did it work out!
As I stick to being vegetarian, I often feel guilty putting meat-free meal after meat-free meal in front of Justin, knowing how much he likes chicken, steak, and bacon. So I am starting to create dishes that can have meat, of his choosing, added at the end of the recipe, so I don’t have to sacrifice my lifestyle choice entirely. I don’t want to cook meat every night for only one of us to eat it. As it turns out, tonight’s dish is vegan, save for the “pick and mix” toppings of pulled chicken and sour cream. If you take those two ingredients away, the soup is a hearty, stew like dish that makes excellent use of my favourite autumn vegetable- butternut squash, and now a (vegan) family fave.
I’d like to give a special mention to the winner of tonight’s meal- an spontaneous purchase item that has been gathering dust in my kitchen- liquid smoke. Liquid smoke is such a novelty, and I have no idea why I bought it way back in January. It is a liquid as dense as soy sauce, but it is pure hickory flavour. The bottle recommends brushing it on meats before grilling, but adding it to soups and stews is where the real magic happens. Below is the full recipe, including the pulled chicken, so if you’re veggie or vegan, just don’t include the that or sour cream.
1 lb BUTTERNUT SQUASH
3 GARLIC CLOVES
1 tbsp CORIANDER PASTE
1 can BLACK BEANS
1 can CHOPPED TOMATOES
1/2 tbsp LIQUID SMOKE
1 tbsp SRIRACHA POWDER or TACO SEASONING
2 tbsp OLIVE OIL
1 CHICKEN BREAST
1 cup VEGETABLE STOCK
Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with paper. Cut the chicken length wise, into strips, and cook for 25 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, chop the squash into thumb nail size pieces and dress with the olive oil and sriracha powder. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and add the squash at the the same heat for 20 minutes until the edges are crispy.
While the squash is roasting, pull apart the chicken while its still warm with forks, and set aside. Chop the onion and garlic, and fry until translucent, stirring in the coriander paste until evenly distributed. Drain the beans and add to the pot, along with the tomatoes, stock, and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the squash and simmer for a further 7-10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and remove half of the stew- blend until smooth and add back to the pot. Stir, then serve with your choice of toppings.