Northeast Times

It’s always time for stew

The seed for the cre­ation of Earth Day was planted when Rachel Car­son’s best­seller “Si­lent Spring” was pub­lished in 1962. It made the need to pro­tect the en­vir­on­ment and pub­lic health part of the na­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion. Earth Day and the birth of the mod­ern en­vir­on­ment­al move­ment were based on an idea from Wis­con­sin Sen. Gaylord Nel­son. The dev­ast­at­ing en­vir­on­ment­al dam­age of a massive oil spill in Santa Bar­bara, Cal­if., in 1969 had a pro­found im­pact on him. He wanted to start a na­tion­al polit­ic­al move­ment to pro­tect the earth from the rav­ages of air and wa­ter pol­lu­tion.

On April 22, 1970, some 20 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans took part in a na­tion­al rally and or­gan­ized protest against the de­teri­or­a­tion of the en­vir­on­ment, oil spills, pol­lut­ing factor­ies and power plants, raw sewage, tox­ic dumps, pesti­cides, free­ways, the loss of wil­der­ness and the ex­tinc­tion of wild­life. The first Earth Day led to the cre­ation of the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency and the pas­sage of the Clean Air, Clean Wa­ter and En­dangered Spe­cies acts.

“It was a gamble,” Gaylord re­called, “but it worked.”

Today, Earth Day is a world­wide move­ment reach­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of people. It uses so­cial me­dia to or­gan­ize and in­form people about cur­rent en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues such as re­cyc­ling, glob­al warm­ing and clean en­ergy. For ex­ample, A Bil­lion Acts of Green launched an in­ter­na­tion­al ini­ti­at­ive last year with “Avatar” dir­ect­or James Camer­on to plant 1 mil­lion trees, and tripled its on­line base to more than 900,000 com­munity mem­bers.

Cel­eb­rate Earth Day with my re­cipe for Spring Stew with To­mato Gar­lic Pistou. It’s the per­fect show­case for loc­al, fresh and en­vir­on­ment­ally friendly ve­get­ables.

Spring Stew with To­mato Gar­lic Pistou

Pistou is a French ver­sion of pesto without any pine nuts, al­monds or wal­nuts. Adding the To­mato Gar­lic Pistou to the fin­ished Spring Stew not only en­hances the present­a­tion of the soup, it also adds a burst of acid, bright­en­ing the fla­vors. Any ex­tra pistou can be re­fri­ger­ated or frozen. It’s a healthy ac­com­pani­ment for grilled or steamed fish and shell­fish. Or use it as a base for a salad dress­ing by whisk­ing it with a little more olive oil and bal­sam­ic, red wine or sherry vin­eg­ar. 

2 ta­ble­spoons olive oil

2 cups yel­low onions, finely diced

2 cups car­rots, peeled, finely diced

1 red bell pep­per, cut in 1-inch chunks

1 ta­ble­spoon kosh­er salt

1 tea­spoon freshly ground black pep­per 

3 quarts un­salted ve­get­able stock

1 cup green beans, fresh or frozen, cut in­to 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups as­paragus, tips and tender parts, cut in­to 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup shelled fresh peas (about 1 1/2 pounds un­shelled) or frozen peas

2 cups yel­low squash, me­di­um dice

3 ounce dita­lini, tubet­tini or oth­er small pasta

To­mato and Gar­lic Pistou (re­cipe be­low)

1/2 cup Parmes­an cheese 

1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven set over me­di­um-low heat un­til oil is hot, but not smoking. Add in the onions and cook for a few minutes, stir­ring fre­quently un­til onions soften. Toss in the car­rots, red bell pep­per, salt and pep­per. Turn up heat to me­di­um and saute for about 5 minutes, stir­ring to pre­vent burn­ing. Don’t let the ve­get­ables car­a­mel­ize. 

2. Add ve­get­able stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and sim­mer the soup for a few minutes be­fore adding green beans, as­paragus, peas, squash and pasta. Sim­mer for an ad­di­tion­al 15 minutes or so, un­til the pasta is cooked and the ve­get­ables are tender. Serve soup with a large dol­lop of pistou (re­cipe be­low) and freshly grated Parmes­an. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Pistou

4 large cloves of gar­lic, smashed and peeled

1/2 cup to­mato paste

30 fresh, large basil leaves, washed and pat­ted dry

1/4 cup grated Parmes­an cheese

1/4 cup ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, plus 2 ta­ble­spoons for top­ping

Add gar­lic, to­mato paste, basil leaves and Parmes­an cheese to the bowl of your food pro­cessor. Pulse the mix­ture un­til it is a chunky paste. With the mo­tor run­ning, add the ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil in a steady stream and pro­cess un­til it be­comes creamy. Trans­fer pistou to a small con­tain­er, and cov­er it with a thin lay­er of olive oil and an air-tight lid to keep the col­ors bright un­til ready to use. Makes 1 cup. ••

An­gela Shelf Medear­is is an award-win­ning chil­dren’s au­thor, culin­ary his­tor­i­an and au­thor of sev­en cook­books. Her new cook­book is “The Kit­chen Diva’s Dia­bet­ic Cook­book.” Her Web site is www.di­vapro.com

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