Beef

Meatball and Butternut Stew

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Meatball and Butternut Stew
Meatball and Butternut Stew

Last week on this day it seemed very sensible to make a stew. It was a blizzardy, blustery day and stew seemed like the finest thing to eat on such a day.  I had seen this one on a post from Impressions Bakery, and as per usual, I decided to try to create it. Today, as I’m writing about this stew, I’m thinking “Why didn’t I get this blog written last week?” Now it’s almost like Florida out there. Minus the palm trees, of course, but with some imagination…well, okay, a LOT of imagination, you could think yourself in a southern sunny clime. You know that popular ambiguous saying “Only Believe”? Now is a good time to apply it.

This recipe is really good. The meatballs are warmly and lightly spiced, it has a delicious tomato-ey broth and it uses butternut squash in a non-traditional fashion. I thought the broth needed something more, so I added smoked paprika (of course; don’t I always?), some oregano and with a nod to my son-in-law and spring, MAPLE SYRUP! And do you know what? That did it. It heightened the overall experience dramatically. I also added kale because I had some here and I thought it would be a good fit. Spinach would also work great. I didn’t need the whole squash, so I used only the seed bulb part of it, saving those lovely neck slices for grilled, fried, or roasted squash slices.

To prove how good this stew is, my daughter who normally groans when I say I’m serving soup for supper, ate this stew three times, counting leftovers, and declared it tasted better each time. It stirred up memories of long ago when my mom made meatball stew for our school lunches and how the smell of it cooking would assail our senses when we woke. That’s a recipe and post for another time. I can feel it formulating. We’ll see how the weather behaves next week.

Preparing the vegetables and browning the meat.

 

TIP 1: If a tomato base is too much tomato and too little else, add spices and herbs and sweeten it up slightly. It does wonders to round out whatever you’re making.

TIP 2: To cut kale, hold the stem upside down and slide a large knife downwards along the rib removing the leaves. Chop the leaves to the size you want. To avoid the strong flavour, add the kale in the last 3 minutes, heating it just until it’s wilted. Same goes for spinach, if you’re using it instead. 

 

Meatball and Butternut Stew
Meatball and Butternut Stew

 

March = maple syrup around here! Maple season is in full swing now. You can find Ian Roth’s maple syrup at Martin’s, as well as tomatoes, spinach, onions, and garlic. 

Roth's Maple Syrup
Roth’s Maple Syrup

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The opinions and recipe are my own. 

Meatball and Butternut Stew

Meatball and Butternut Stew
Meatball and Butternut Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 slices stale bread*, grated over a cheese shredder to make 1 1/2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle seasoning and/or garlic powder (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash 
  • 1 cup chopped cooking onions
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • 2 cups beef stock *
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes or stewed tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano 
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons maple syrup or other sweetener
  • 2 cups chopped kale or spinach
  • Parmesan cheese and parsley or cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions

Grate the bread slices into a medium-sized bowl; pour milk over the bread and let soak for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef, cumin, chili, chipotle/garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and combine gently. Pack gently into 18 (1 1/2 inch) meatballs. 

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Depending on the leanness of your beef, you may want to drizzle a little oil in the bottom of the pan. Add meatballs in a single layer and cook, turning to brown all sides, until done. This will take about 5 minutes. Alternatively, the meatballs can be baked on a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Add the squash, onions and garlic to the pot and brown for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beef stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits. This adds wonderful flavour to the stew. Cook until the liquid is reduced to nearly half. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika, oregano, and maple syrup; return to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the kale and meatballs and simmer until everything is heated. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, parsley or cilantro to serve, if using. Enjoy with all your being.

*It is easy to make this stew gluten-free by using gf bread or oats (use only 3/4 cup of oats) and gf beef broth.