Pork and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

I’m freezing right now–drizzly, grey day– and am trying to channel the warmth that this dish created in my kitchen and in my belly.  This one is going to be a winter staple, I think.

Recipe #2: Pork and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

1 1/2 lb pork shoulder, cubed

1 onion

1-2 carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 cup red or white quinoa, rinsed

2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes

1-2 cups water

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 c. chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

1 c. pitted kalamata olives

1/2 cup red wine

salt & pepper to taste

First, salt and pepper the pork generously and brown slowly in a tablespoon of olive oil. Do this in batches if you have to so you don’t overcrowd the pan.

Remove from the pan, and add onion, carrot and garlic. Once all of that is browning, add the tomato paste and cook until rusty. A minute or two.

Add the red wine and de-glaze the pan. God, this smells good.

Add the pork back in, plus the tomatoes and another 2 cups or so of water. Add the olives and half the parsley. Add the cumin and cinnamon. Salt and pepper.

Cinnamon in tomato sauce may seem odd at first, but this is a classic pairing you find in both northern African cuisines and in the recipes of southern Italy. I often add a little cinnamon to my marinara or meat sauces when I’m making them, and it just elevates everything to the realm of beyond.

 

Bring all of this to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 2 hours, or until the pork falls apart. It’s really important for this recipe that you get the right cut of pork. You need something fatty and well-muscled that will stand up to long, slow cooking and remain moist. Save your tenderloin for another recipe; it will dry out horribly here. But shoulder roast is perfect. Sumptuous.

About 30 minutes before you plan to serve this (with good crusty bread and red table wine, of course), add the quinoa and replace the lid. I used red quinoa for this recipe, just because I wanted to show you a variety, but it tastes the same as the white and either will work fine here.

You may need to add a little more liquid at the end, but that depends on how stewy you like your stew.

At this point, add the rest of the fresh parsley. Another trick I learned from Mario Batali. A little cooked, a little raw–one brings depth of flavor, the other brightness to the dish.

Be sure to taste and adjust your seasonings. You always do that, right? That’s the kiss of death on Top Chef–chefs who don’t taste their food before sending it out to the judges. Take a lesson.

Paul has dubbed this one of his top three favorite dishes entirely of my own creation, right next to my lentil salad and my spaghetti with chickpeas and lemon.

The olives, I have to say, make this very special. I kind of wonder what green olives would do in this. Maybe next time, and if you try, do let me know.

 

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What’s your favorite warm-me-up food?

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