By Marc Donadieu
One of the best ways to explore and understand any culture is by experiencing its food, letting its different tastes and textures speak for the cuisine. Extending the Table, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach, gathers authentic recipes from around the world to show the diversity and simplicity of what ordinary people eat on a regular basis.
In doing so, Schlabach offers a home cook many accessible, exciting possibilities to make international meals that are easy, affordable, flavorful and nutritious. The author’s intentions are more than eating a good meal though. Throughout the book, Schlabach emphasizes the spiritual connections that are found in the preparation and eating of another culture’s common foods, especially as a way to bring families together.
Extending the Table emphasizes the many ways food communicates, especially how the act of eating brings people together. In the cookbook’s opening, Schlabach writes, “ I believe the experience of preparing new foods and meeting people through stories can broaden our understanding of other people and their problems and of our own selves. That is why this is more than a recipe book.”
Extending the Table is published by the Herald Press for the Mennonite Central Committee. The cookbook may be ordered from any retail bookstore or it can easily be purchased online from Herald Press at http://www.mph.org and then going to their online catalog.
If you’re looking for a Lenten meal with some variety, why not try a Chilean Vegetable Harvest Stew? One of the great features about the recipes in Extending the Table is that they present a straightforward guideline to follow, encouraging cooks to adjust seasonings and add or delete ingredients as appropriate. What follows is a simple adaptation of the book’s recipe.
Chilean Vegetable Harvest Stew
This harvest stew from Chile is quite easy to prepare as a Lenten meal, since most of the preparation is chopping vegetables and simmering them. While this stew is labeled as a fall dish, the use of fresh ingredients makes it a vibrant, spicy dish to greet a cool spring day or evening.
– 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
– 1 medium onion, finely chopped
– 4 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 tbsp. chili powder
– 2 hot green chili peppers, minced
– salt and black pepper to taste
– 1½ cups of fresh or canned tomatoes
– 2 cups of pumpkin, winter or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
– 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
– 2 cups cooked white beans
– oregano to taste
In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sauté onion, garlic and chili peppers. Season with chili powder and salt and black pepper to taste. Add pumpkin or butternut squash and corn. If you’re using canned vegetables be aware of how much salt you add.
Slowly simmer the stew until the largest squash cubes are tender, at least 30 minutes. The vegetables will cook down and blend together, but you might want to add some liquid from the corn and beans to help it cook. Don’t add too much liquid because the recipe is a stew, not a soup. Add white beans and oregano to taste. Simmer a little longer to blend the flavors.
The stew will be chunky with a slightly spicy, flavorful vegetable broth. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with bread, cheese and a small salad if you wish, although it can be served alone.
If you prefer spicier food, a small amount of cayenne pepper would be appropriate as long as it doesn’t overwhelm the stew. This stew also tastes great the next day.
Let us pray
Lord, the lover of life, you feed the birds of the skies and array the lilies of the field. We bless you for all your creatures and for the food we are about to receive. We humbly pray that in your goodness you will provide for our brothers and sisters who are hungry. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.