‘Tis the Season…..

Ah! My favorite time of year! The holidays have begun, and with them, the best food: Grandmom’s stuffing with cornbread and raisins, lacy-crisp latkes, an entire geometry book of cookies, nut-laden fudge, salt-crusted prime rib, flaky pies, rich and boozy fruitcakes, potatoes au gratin. The list goes on, and on, and I love it all.

Before I know it, usually by early days of December, my holiday belly sometimes tests the limits of my Spanx. I suffer from Butter Fatigue and everything starts tasting the same and I feel a little gnarly. Every year I try to internalize the “10 Strategies for Holiday Weight Loss” articles, but somewhere between the magazine and the crock pot full of party meatballs, I forget the advice to just take one bite of cocktail nibbles, and to nosh on hummus and veg instead of the crabby poofs. “Forget” is the wrong word; I outright reject the advice.

Which means that in between the office fudge platter and the neighbor’s ‘Nogfest, we try to eat seriously clean at home. One of my favorites is Greek Vegetable Stew, a hearty tomato-based pot of health that soothes the most fondue-distended of stomachs. Sometimes I add chickpeas for a little extra protein and bulk, but usually I just oven-simmer together vegetables and aromatic spices, top it at the table with some briny feta cheese, and give thanks for its clean, wintery flavor.

This dish can be made on the stovetop, or probably in the crockpot, but to get broad flavors out of these simple ingredients, taking the time to dry roast some of the vegetables before adding liquid is worth the extra step. The stew is even better after a day or 4 in the fridge, so consider throwing this together on a Sunday while you are in the kitchen doing other tasks (Baking cookies? Brewing limoncello?), and then reheat it mid-week for a restorative, simple meal.

Greek Vegetable Stew
Serves 4-6

1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed
½ cup red wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ pound trimmed green beans, fresh or frozen
½ pound small red potatoes, cubed
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
3 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, olive oil, and salt in a large dutch oven. Toss to coat vegetables, then roast in the preheated oven, stirring once, until golden in spots, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees.

Move the dutch oven up to the stovetop, and place over high heat. Stir in cinnamon, oregano, red chile flakes, tomatoes and their juices, wine, stock, green beans, and potatoes, then bring to a boil. Cover the pot, return it to the oven, and bake 30-40 minutes, until potatoes and green beans are tender.

Stir in the olives, then ladle into bowls for serving. Top each portion with feta cheese, and serve hot.

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