Freezer-friendly stew

Make good use of produce and stock up for the week

Whether you're looking to stock up your own freezer with hearty weeknight meals, help out an overworked friend or are just ready to embrace cozy fall flavors, these freezer-friendly recipes make good use of late-summer produce like peppers, eggplant and turnips. They're ideal weekend projects and all yield several quarts, making them perfect candidates for a soup swap – a fun way to fill your freezer with variety. 

Both the beef and the lentil stew can be made deliciously vegetarian – simply substitute an equal weight of sliced mushrooms for the meat and sauté in olive oil. You will need to brown the mushrooms in batches to allow them to brown properly. Serve up these nourishing dishes with crusty bread and a crisp green salad.

Beef Stew

2 strips bacon, chopped

3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1½-inch cubes 

2 onions, diced

1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped 

4 stalks celery, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced 

½ cup flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste 

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, optional

½ teaspoon dried thyme 

6 cups unsalted broth, hot 

½ bottle red wine (you can also use a pint of good stout beer) 

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves, optional

3 turnips, peeled and chopped

10 ounces frozen peas 

Minced fresh parsley, to serve

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Heat a Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot with a heavy bottom over medium-high heat. Fry the chopped bacon until the pieces are crisp and the fat has rendered out. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and set aside. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt, then sear in batches, making sure not to crowd the pan so they can brown properly. Remove the browned meat from the pan and set aside while you sauté the vegetables. Add the onion, celery and garlic along with a generous pinch of salt to the hot pan and sauté until just beginning to soften and lightly brown.

Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables in the pan, then use a flat-edged spoon to stir the flour in and scrape up the flavorful bits in the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about a minute, while continuously scraping the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomato paste, mustard, if using, thyme and a generous pinch of salt, followed by the hot broth, red wine and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine, then add the bay leaves and chopped turnips.

Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to a preheated 300-degree oven. Cook for 60 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir. Cover and return to the oven (if the stew was boiling vigorously when it was removed from the oven, reduce the heat to 250 degrees) to cook for an additional 60-90 minutes. Add the frozen peas and taste for seasoning. Serve hot, topped with chopped parsley. 

Oven Ratatouille

6 large tomatoes 

1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed 

2 onions, not sweet 

4 red bell peppers

6 cloves garlic 

2 medium black eggplant or two quarts small fairy tale eggplants 

4 medium zucchini (a mixture of green and yellow is pretty) 

½ cup olive oil, divided 

1 teaspoon each minced fresh thyme and rosemary 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and have a bowl of ice water ready. Slice an "x" into the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife. Gently lower the tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds, then transfer to the bowl of ice water to cool. When cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the tomatoes. Cut them in half and remove the seeds, then roughly chop. Toss the chopped tomatoes with a half teaspoon of salt, then place them in a colander over a bowl to drain while you prepare the remaining ingredients. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel and chop the onion into 1-inch pieces. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and cut them in 1-inch pieces. Mince the garlic. Toss the peppers, onions and garlic with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut the zucchini in 1-inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and arrange on another parchment-lined sheet. If the eggplant has tough skin you may want to peel it, otherwise you can leave it on if you wish. Chop, oil/season and arrange the eggplant on a third parchment-lined sheet. 

Roast the vegetables in the oven, stirring and rotating every 15 minutes. If you do not have enough oven racks, then roast in batches. Roast until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned. The onions will take about 30 minutes, the eggplant and zucchini may take closer to 45, depending on your oven. When the vegetables on the sheet pans are done, combine them along with the drained tomatoes and herbs in an oiled casserole dish. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest at least 30 minutes before serving. This dish will improve overnight and can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Lentil-Sausage Soup 

1 pound Italian sausage 

1 onion, diced 

1 each red and green bell pepper, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced 

3 stalks celery, diced 

3 cloves minced garlic 

Salt and pepper to taste 

1½ cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed

6 cups unsalted broth 

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach 

Heat a heavy-bottomed soup pot over high heat. Cook the sausage, breaking it up into crumbles with a spoon. When the sausage is cooked through and brown, add the diced vegetables and cook until softened and aromatic. Add the garlic and cook a minute more before adding the lentils and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Stir in the frozen spinach and return to a simmer. Season to taste and serve with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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