Here in the Scratchin’ It Central Library, we have tomes that contain thousands upon thousands of recipes that have been studiously clipped from various newspapers, or magazines, or boxes, or, well, from anywhere, really. Many of them were selected for future meals. The future is now! We decided that we’d dig through our clippings and select a recipe to test at the rate of about one a week.
Our first such recipe is for a Greek vegetable stew that we found in The Boston Globe Magazine, which was provided by Elena Pernokas Yioulos, oh, perhaps, 20 years ago. Now, you might not think of the Boston area as having a large population of people with Greek heritage, but, having lived there, we can tell you that it’s true. In fact, one of our favorite restaurants was a small café by the Concord River, run by a Greek family, that dished up many great-tasting and authentic Greek dishes.
The original recipe called for Idaho or Russet potatoes, while we had Red potatoes; they went into the stew. If you’re not using organic potatoes, consider peeling them; the peels are where most the residual pesticides will be. It also called for zucchini instead of summer squash, as we wrote above, but again, we had pattypan squash; ergo, we substituted. Also, we didn’t have a full pound of green beans, but, like every Scratchin’ It devotee, we made do with what we had. We do suggest that you use as many fresh vegetables as possible for this dish. The Mediterranean area is known for using the freshest vegetables while they’re in season, and we know that area is a hotbed of great food.
Procedure in detail:
Cook onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to add some flavor and help draw out moisture. Cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary, until the onions are soft and translucent, but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for an additional minute, or until fragrant. Don’t let the garlic brown or it’ll taste bitter.
Add tomatoes and basil. Add the tomatoes, water, — we just used our tomato can as a measuring cup; gets out the tomato sauce and is close enough to 2 cups — basil, and some more salt and pepper. Not too much seasoning now; you’ll taste and adjust later. Stir to combine.
Add potatoes. Stir in the potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Not a roiling boil, which might break apart the potatoes, turning them into mush.
Simmer. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the soup, and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the potatoes are cooked most of the way through, about 20 minutes. If you stir too often, the potatoes will break apart and you don’t want a stew that seems as if it has mashed potatoes mixed into it.
Add squash and beans. Add the green beans and the squash. Gently stir to mix. If needed, lightly press down the vegetables to cover with the broth (add a bit more water, if needed).
Simmer. Place the cover back on the stew and continue simmering until the vegetables are very tender, about 30-40 minutes. If needed, give the stew a gentle stir from time to time. Again, gently, so you don’t break apart the vegetables.
Taste and season. This is the key part of any dish. Taste the stew and add salt and pepper as needed. We normally recommend that you add a bit of vinegar or lemon juice at this stage — the acid will brighten the flavor — we didn’t find it necessary. If we did, we probably would have used lemon juice.
Serve. Scoop into bowls, top with a sprinkle of grated cheese, and serve with a side of crusty peasant bread.
This was delicious and oh, so, simple. And, it’s definitely an authentic Greek vegetable stew. Not only was the recipe provided by a Greek-American, but it’s quite like vegetable stews that one of us remembers from travels and visits in Greece. On top of that, it has a seemingly unpronounceable Greek name: Lathomayerema. To us, it seems as if the name alone is enough to want to make it (imagine the look on people’s faces when you announce at a potluck, “I brought Lathomayerema!”), but the taste is what makes it worth five stars.