Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adobe Stew - and it's vegetarian and vegan too

It was some years ago now that we first had lunch at The Gypsy Den, in Costa Mesa (California). It happens to be in the same small shopping complex where we, my DH and I, get our hair cut, so we often try to make appointments around lunchtime. Sometimes my friend and owner/hair stylist Rachel, eat there together before or after the haircuts. But most often my DH and I eat there. He orders the same thing every single time we go. Mostly I do too. He has their Greek salad. I order a crock of their adobe stew.

So after eating this soup umpteen times, I asked one of the waitresses about it. She brought out a sheet of paper with a list of all the ingredients. It was up to me to figure out how much of what. That's all I had - a list of all the vegetables in it, and the names of the spices. I was amazed at how good it was, considering it was made with WATER. Not even broth. Not even vegetable broth. So their recipe is actually vegan and vegetarian if you don't count the cheese. I love it just as well,

no matter what you call it.
The restaurant fashions itself as a kind of hip, but very funky, mostly outdoor place. The OC Weekly described it this way: "nose-pierced babes woo scruffy-bearded grad students with promises of Foucault and vegetarian chili."

The Gypsy Den kitchen makes everything themselves, including their bread. They have lots of vegetarian items, but also make some sandwiches and salads with chicken and tuna, etc. The food is always - I mean always - good. I appreciate the fact that they make everything in house. The waitresses are a trip and a half - often with tattoos down their arms, in rather skimpy halter tops, tight pants, etc. You might not want to take your aging mother here, although I am one. But it's a favorite haunt of ours nevertheless.

So one time I decided to try making my own Adobe Stew. I came up with a kind of recipe. It's not the same as the Gypsy Den's, I'm sure, but it's close. Each time I've made it, it's been slightly different. Do notice how dark the broth is - so I assume they used a LOT of chiles. Cumin also adds to a dark-colored broth, but not THAT dark.

You can also buy ancho chili powder from some grocery stores, and also at Penzey's - and in fact that may be what they use rather than the dried chiles. Here in Southern California we have all kinds of fresh and dried chiles at our markets. Poblanos (a fresh chile) are at most stores, and anchos are dried poblanos. They're very mild, adding just about zero heat to the stew. Likely the chili powder does that.

So, first I'll give you the ingredient list - that way you can interpret it as you so choose. If you choose.

Gypsy Den Adobe Stew Ingredients: onions, oil, tomatoes (canned), garlic, bay leaves, oregano, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, ancho chiles, corn, green beans, zucchini squash, yellow squash, pinto beans, water, cheddar cheese and jack cheese.

My scribblings on the day the waitress brought us the ingredient list.

Carolyn's interpretation of the "Gypsy Den Adobe Stew":
8 ancho chiles (if you don't know these, click here for info)
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 T. vegetable oil
2 pounds canned tomatoes, chopped, including juice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 T. oregano, crushed in your hands
2 T. ground cumin
1 T. ground coriander
1-3 T. (mild) chili powder, to taste
1 lb. frozen corn
1 lb. frozen green beans
1 lb. canned pinto beans, drained
1 lb. fresh zucchini, chopped
1 lb. fresh yellow squash, chopped
About 3 quarts water (a guess, use your own judgment)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 cups grated Jack cheese

When I made it I soaked the ancho chiles in water for several hours. Probably overnight would be fine. Then you'd drain them (save juice), seed them and remove stems. Then combine the juice and chiles in the blender and puree. Set aside. When I've made it I sauteed the onions first, then added the garlic, the spices and let it saute a bit. Then I added water - a lot - the tomatoes, and the reserved ancho chile puree, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Then I added frozen corn, frozen green beans, and canned pinto beans. Bring it back to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then add fresh zucchini and yellow squash, which went in last. You add the cheeses on top of the soup and not so thick it doesn't melt.
Per Serving: 181 Calories; 9g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 20mg Cholesterol; 399mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.


KMDuff said...

Sounds delicious. I think I might try it. :)

Carolyn T said...

It really is good. And not all that difficult, either. Hope you enjoy it.

Judy said...

I am so glad I saw this! I used to work over in Santa Ana near the Gypsy Den and loved their Adobe stew. So, I thought I'd google Adobe Stew to find a recipe. I never guessed I'd find "the" recipe! Thanks so much for all of your work and sharing it too! I'm going to have to give this a try!

R said...

This is the second time I've visited this website, looking for this recipe--one of these days I might just put a copy somewhere that I will remember it!

It's also a very forgiving recipe--I generally use a combination of veggie broth and water, and almost never use the same proportions of ingredients, and it's always delicious!