Of the lunar events that mark the calendar, I think the fall equinox is my favorite. There is such a sense of balance as the garden stands poised between summer and winter. There is still food to harvest, and a few 3-season flowers like cleome and black eyed susans won’t give in to the cool nights. The main color has changed from the neons of summer to subtle reds and purples of fall. The canterbury bells, whose blue insistence marks the beginning of July’s peak, have formed hard seed pods and the leaves are turning yellow. The delphiniums and baby’s breath breathe one more bloom into the chilly morning air. The banes are flowering— bugbane, fleabane, wolfsbane, leopardsbane.
The goddess sends her winter scouts in the guise of spiders the size of a finger joint, and the cicadas scream out one more chorus before the chill takes them underground. The morning dew has that heavy cold sparkle that says “I want to be frost”.
I'll be eating leftovers all week, as there's a fridge-full of the pumpkin variations, as well as some pilaf. Towards the end of the week I'll pick the rest of the black beans and make chili; I need to figure out something to do with 9 turnips (the lo bak gau was a dismal failure). In the meantime, here's another family favorite.
I know lots of people like the supposed no-work method of using a slow cooker for beef stew; this recipe can be put together easily in 15 minutes, then simmered for an hour after getting home from work.
1/4 to 1/3 lb. per person, of any beef cut you like. Don't feel like you have to buy "beef for stew" which is the cheap awful tough stuff they can't sell any other way. Get a nice cut and you'll have a better stew. If you get a bone-in cut, you can use the bone and fat trimmings to make a nice stock*
large onion*, sliced
1 large carrot*, sliced
2-3 celery stalks*, sliced
4 large tomatoes or 1 small can of whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups beef or vegetable stock*
salt and pepper
broccoli or green beans
1 large potato for every two diners
additional water or stock as needed
To make stock: Trim the meat and all the vegetables. Put all the trimmed items (bones, fat, carrot ends, onion skins, potato skins, celery leaves) in a 2 quart pot filled with water. Add peppercorns and salt and boil; simmer until it is reduced to half; strain.
Place the onions in about a half cup of water in a large stew pot and saute until all the moisture is gone. Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, the oregano, and the meat; brown the beef (meaning, sear it until all pieces are browned on one side at least; okay if there's still a lot of red on the meat when you add the other ingredients). Add the celery and a small amount of water and saute until the celery starts to get translucent. Add the tomatoes and about a cup of water, simmer until the skin comes off easily. (If using canned tomatoes, skip the simmering and move straight to the next ingredient). Add the stock, carrots, and potatoes, then add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Let this simmer for about 30 minutes, adjusting the seasoning. Add water if you like your stew with more sauce. Add the green vegetables 5 minutes (for store bought or frozen) to 10 minutes (for garden fresh) before serving and continue to simmer covered-- you want these to be al dente not mushy.
Serve over rice.
15 hours ago