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Beef Stew with Dumplings

A complete meal in itself, stew with dumplings is the perfect recipe for using the varieties of fresh produce at the end of summer. The meal is fairly low in fat, especially if you use lean beef and peanut oil to make a roux with flour, and thicken again later with cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Peanut oil is a healthy substitute for lard, but if you crave a thick, beefy gravy, use some beef fat to absorb the flour and make more roux.

Beef stew may once have been considered to be peasant food, but these days it has a certain hearty class . . .

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1-2 lbs lean or marbled beef, cubed

4 medium potatoes, cubed and slightly steamed

5 small carrots, diced and slightly steamed

large onion, minced

cup peanut oil

1 can beef broth

cup flour

3-4 heaping teaspoons beef bouillon powder

cup red wine

1 zucchini, chopped

2 mushrooms, chopped

bell pepper, chopped

1/4 lb green beans, chopped

1 cup peas

2 tbls dried thyme

1 tsp savory

tsp marjoram

cup chopped parsley, optional

2 tbls cracked peppercorns

Dumplings

1 cup all purpose flour

cup whole wheat flour

cup wheat germ

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, separated

Dumplings with wheatgerm and buttermilk
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Brown the beef in peanut oil, then add onions and cook until transparent; add flour and stir to coat.  Stir in broth; add partially cooked potatoes and carrots and water to cover.  Allow to cook for 20 minutes; then add bouillon powder; if stew hasn’t thickened adequately at this point, mix cornstarch or arrowroot powder in a little cold water and add to the gravy.  Repeat as necessary until stew is nicely thickened--but even a thin gravy works well enough, because the dumplings will absorb it on the plate--then stir well and add the zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, peas, and beans.  Allow to simmer until stew begins to bubble slightly.  Add herbs and seasonings.

Mix the dry ingredients for the dumplings.  Separate the eggs and mix the yolks with buttermilk.  As the stew reaches the boiling point, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks.  Quickly stir the milk and yolk mixture into the dry ingredients, adding a little more buttermilk if necessary--you want the batter thick enough to mound on top of the stew. Then, carefully fold in the whites.

As the stew bubbles, drop batter by large spoonfuls around the surface of the stew for six dumplings.  Cover and reduce heat slightly if necessary, keeping it just at the boiling point.  (You can tell if the stew is bubbling by pressing the heel of your fist against the handle of the lid and feeling for vibrations.)  Resist lifting the lid for half an hour.  At that time, dumplings should be risen and dry on the surface.  Remove the dumplings and stir in a splash of full-bodied red wine.

Serve with red wine or beer.  Stew and dumplings reheat well in the microwave and can be frozen.

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