This mild, deep-red stew makes a hearty, vegetarian main course that is wonderful served over rice or with fresh corn tortillas. To spice it up, try adding 5 or 6 dried red chilies. This recipe is adapted from The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker, by Lynn Alley (Ten Speed 2010). The ingredients are available at a Latin market. The recipe is intended for a 5-quart or larger slow cooker.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For The Sauce
12 dried guajillo chilies
3 cups water
4 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
9 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 tablespoons sesame or other flavorful oil
1/4 cup raisins
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and lightly charred under the broiler
1 corn tortilla, torn into pieces
3 tomatillos, washed, husked and quartered
For The stew
1 large chayote (Mexican squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 Portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced
Juice and zest of 1 orange
6 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved horizontally
1/2 pound Mexican queso fresco or feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
To make the sauce, wash the dried chilies well (they are often dusty). Toast them in a dry frying pan over medium high heat briefly and lightly on each side. Do not allow them to burn or they will become bitter. When they cool, remove their stems, slit them open, and remove the seeds and veins. Tear the chilies into pieces and place them in the slow cooker. Cover with the water.
In an electric coffee mill or with a mortar and pestle, grind the allspice, cloves and cumin seeds to a powder, then add to the chilies. Add the garlic, oregano, oil, raisins, onion, tortilla and tomatillos. Cover and cook on high for about 1 hour.
Using an immersion blender, pulse the mixture until relatively smooth. The sauce can be made 1 day ahead.
To make the stew, add the chayote, potatoes and squash to the sauce in the slow cooker. Re-cover and cook on low for 3 hours, or until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape.
Add the sliced mushrooms, orange juice and zest and green beans and cook for another 30 minutes, until beans are just tender.
Serve topped with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro.