My friend Stephanie went back to the original Silver Palette cookbook the other day to look for something to make for dinner and what she came up with was a delicious recipe for beef stew with cumin and olives. Since I was too busy to go shopping for the pearl onions it called for, I adapted it to use the yellow onion I already had. The beauty of any beef stew recipe is that it's forgiving. Use as much or as little red wine as you have left in the bottle on the counter. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees (as this recipe calls for) or simmer it, covered, on a burner (this is what I usually do because it's easier to keep an eye on a situation that's developing on top of the stove). Here's what I did:
Put 2 cups of flour into a large plastic freezer bag, along with salt and pepper to taste and a tablespoon of dried thyme. Add about three pounds of beef stew cubes to the bag and shake to coat. Then brown the beef on all sides in olive oil in a deep pot; remove beef and pour out excess oil. NOTE: Although the original recipe said not to wash out the pot at this stage, I always find that the bits that adhere to the bottom are so burned that they taste burned, so I give the pot a quick rinse in hot water, removing the most blackened stuff. Return pot to medium heat, pour in a cup or so of red wine and scrape up the remaining bits. Then add a cup or two of beef broth, a cup of crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of ground cumin and a teaspoon of chili powder. Bring to a boil and return the beef to the pot. Cover the pot and either put it in a medium oven or simmer on a burner for an hour or so. Meanwhile, saute a sliced medium yellow onion and six chopped cloves of garlic over medium low heat until they soften and just start to turn gold. Add the onion and garlic mixture to the stew. A few minutes later, add a half cup of chopped parsley and a cup of chopped green olives to the stew. Take off the cover and reduce the liquid. Then serve in bowls.
Note: I served the stew in bowls over noodles (but would have preferred to serve it over couscous, if that hadn't required a trip to the store) with sauteed pea shoots on the side.