Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kamut, Bean and Vegetable Stew

Kamut is a delicious, plump whole grain that I discovered by eating it cold on top of salads from a salad bar. The flavor is comparable to brown rice, and the grains are about three times as thick, making it have a delicious little POP in your mouth when you chew it. I thought it would be perfect for a hearty dish, and so I set out to make this stew.

This thick, warming stew is very gumbo inspired, with the okra, sausage, peppers, onions and seasonings. The flavor greatly depends on your roux and the spices you put in. Look for a gumbo, jambalaya or Cajun seasoning mix that you love (or make your own :) and do not skimp on making the roux. If you have never made one before, you might try a practice session really quick - use the instructions here and halve or quarter the flour and butter amounts. It's not as hard as some cooking shows or books will make it seem, you just need patience.

Patience.... yes, have that before you set out to make this stew. It starts the evening before cooking, and I just spent about three hours in front of the stove with it. This is a special occasion dish - it takes a little bit of effort and lots of time. However, the final product is very worth it. I am melting in my bowl as I type this.

Kamut, Bean and Vegetable Stew
  • 1/4 cup dried kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup dried black beans
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup kamut berries 
  • olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound sliced okra, fresh or thawed from frozen
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound of your favorite spicy or mild sausage: meat or vegetarian (try andouille, Italian or smoked)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 3 tablespoons Cajun, gumbo or jambalaya seasoning 
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • sea salt and ground black pepper
  • hot sauce
  • fresh chopped parsley, spinach or cilantro
Soak the beans and the kamut in separate pans in plenty of water to cover overnight. The next day, drain the beans and again cover with plentys of water. Add one bay leaf to each pot of beans and submerge the kamut in 4 cups of water. Tilt the lids and set to medium heat. Once they begin boiling, lower the heat and let simmer until the beans and the kamut are tender - about 2-3 hours for the beans, about 30-40 minutes for the kamut. Drain and discard the liquid and bay leaves.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Slice the sausage thinly and add to the pan. Saute until they are cooked through and firm - this will take the longest for raw sausage or vegetarian sausages and only a few minutes if you are using smoked sausage. Remove from the heat, set aside and add a little bit more oil if necessary. Saute the onions and celery until soft and beginning to caramelize, about ten minutes. Add in the bell peppers, jalapenos and garlic and saute until slightly softened, about five more minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter in the pot and add the flour. Continue to whisk until a thick paste forms. Lower the heat to low and continue to whisk and cook the roux. The darker the roux, the more flavorful the stew will be - you could whisk this continuously for up to 45 minutes to get a very delicious, classic gumbo roux. If you don't want to cook it for that long, you may cook it for as little as ten minutes. After about ten minutes it should look like this:
The outside edges will be bubbling - just keep stirring to make sure that nothing burns. The darker the roux, the darker the finished product.

Once the roux has thickened to your liking, add in the tomatoes, remaining bay leaves and the seasonings and mix everything together very thoroughly. Add in the reserved vegetables, sausage and the thawed okra. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, taking care to scrape the bottom each time you stir. Once the vegetables are tender to your liking - as little as fifteen minutes, as long as 45 - add in the beans and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

To serve, scoop some cooked kamut into your bowl and top it with a big ladle of the stew. Garnish with fresh herbs and hot sauce, if desired.

a perfect bowl of fulfilling winter comfort

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