Comfort food. I needed it. My friend, in the throes of her first year of law school, needed it. And you might need it too, what with the stress-fest of Thanksgiving right around the corner.
This dinner, from prep to plating, soothed my frazzled soul. Its story is simple. I went to the farmers’ market with the goal of making an easy meal for a girls’ night in. I looked around, saw what was seasonal, consulted a few vendors for dish ideas, and purchased quality ingredients. I put aside my silly, snobbish opinions about television chef personalities and used a recipe simply because it felt right. I stopped putting pressure on myself to make every course a from-scratch marvel and instead looked to what was natural. It was, in every sense of the word, organic. It was also wonderful.
We opened with an arugula salad with almonds, drizzled with a dressing of equal parts lemon juice and dijon mustard. Clean and simple, it balanced nicely against the hearty main course.
I’d been lovingly simmering a chuck roast from 4505 Meats in a stew with butternut squash, sundried tomatoes, and red wine. The beef melted into tender bites and picked up the aromatic, deeply autumnal flavors of the other ingredients. This fantastically easy, low-commitment dish is also a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving menu, as it can be made ahead of time and only improves with rest. We ladled the stew over quinoa and dug in.
To round out the dinner, I cut up a chilled pear — a gorgeous $3 Asian Shinko specimen from the farmer’s market. It was well worth the price, as the slices were arrestingly sweet and juicy. It reminded me that the best things in life can also be the simplest.
Let’s all do some mindful breathing, throw a few ingredients and wine into a pot, pour the rest of the wine into a glass for yourself, and relax. Put on some stretchy pants and your favorite television show, and return to the kitchen afterward for some soul-healing stew.
Beef and butternut squash stew
I followed the recipe with a few, highly successful modifications: less beef (a little over 1.5 pounds), more butternut squash (a full fruit), chicken stock instead of beef, and an extra 1/4 cup of almond meal for thickening. I’d venture to say the recipe is pretty darn foolproof, so feel free to experiment. The beef gets even more tender and flavorful as it rests — definitely tummy-pleasing leftovers.