The scoop on this recipe…
Hello! Today, I’m sharing my original recipe for a really delicious vegetable stew. This is something you can make in bulk and freeze. It’s patterned after a traditional “Zuppa Toscana” – the ever popular Tuscan Soup.
I’ve included quinoa in my version for added protein, as well as a Brazilian modification: instead of using kale, as is the norm for Zuppa Toscana, I’ve used leaves from a cactus plant native to tropical American regions that thrives here in Minas Gerais. It’s nick named, “Ora-Pro-Nobis” and known as the, “carne de pobre,” or “poor man’s meat” because of its nutrient density. If you’re musically inclined, you may be thinking, “Wait a second, that’s part of the lyrics from Ave Maria,” and you would be correct. This latin phrase, “Ora-Pro-Nobis” translates to English as, “Pray for us”. I can see how this plant gained this nickname, perhaps an answer to many prayers, helping to sustain people through times of scarcity.
More about Ora-Pro-Nobis…
I never knew about Ora-Pro-Nobis until my Mother in Law introduced me. She often puts it in her beans for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. Especially appealing to me is the high level of tryptophan, 20.5 % of the total amino acids to be exact. Tryptophan is one thing that’s believed to support the production of the neurochemical serotonin, which effects moods. A deficit of serotonin often contributes to depression. So there’s that! (I tend to geek out over understanding the nutritional benefits in my food. I guess it’s a hobby of mine.)
In Brazil, this plant grows like a weed… My mother in law rooted some trimmings in a small garden trough on the back wall of our garage about two years ago. Following the record-breaking torrents of rain this February, the plant now climbs the remaining height of the compound wall and spills over into the neighbor’s property. There’s plenty now for everyone who lives in our apartment compound! As long as you’ve got the ingenuity to harvest it. (See picture below). Gathering the leaves I used in my soup turned into a family event after I discovered the stepladder we had wasn’t tall enough. My father in law climbed the wall and then used a hook on the end of a long pole to draw down branches and cut them with landscaping clippers while my mother in law and I snipped the leaves away from the thorn-lined branches. Quite a bit of work for these humble leaves, but there’s nothing so fulfilling as cooking with fresh ingredients, grown in your own nook of nature!
However, if you aren’t able to get your hands on Ora-Pra-Nobis, (for instance, I doubt this is something you’ll easily find in the U.S.), use kale, spinach, or arugula instead.
Ok! On to the recipe…
Hearty Vegan Vegetable Stew
A Tuscan inspired vegan vegetable stew with protein and nutrient-rich ingredients.
- 4 carrots, diced
- 5 medium potatoes, diced
- 1/2 stalk of celery, finely chopped
- 1 can of white beans (cannellini or great northern, for example)
- 2 Cups cooked quinoa
- 4 large tomatoes, cut in large chunks
- 2-3 Cups of your green leafy vegetable of choice, julienned
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 head of garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 bay leaves
- Rosemary to taste
- Oregano to taste
- 1 package of onion soup mix
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons of annatto seed powder (if mixed with corn meal
- less if it's pure annatto seed powder. This gives the broth the warm orange color, but it's an optional ingredient).
- 4 cups of water
- Step 1 First, chop the garlic, onions and celery and start to saute them in your soup pot with some olive oil or other oil. Add in the salt and all herbs except the bay leaves.
- Step 2 While the aromatics are sauteing, cut the potatoes and carrots and add them in.
- Step 3 Let all of the vegetables saute for a few minutes before adding in the water.
- Step 4 When the vegetables are fragrant and perhaps show a little browning, add the water, quinoa, white beans, and greens.
- Step 5 Let the soup simmer, stirring occasionally and seasoning to perfection, until the vegetables are tender and the broth is slightly thickened.
- Step 6 Serve with garlic bread, Pão de queijo, salad, or just by itself and bon appetit!