Vegetarian stew for Sukkot puts focus on harvest bounty

Sukkot, which begins at sundown
Sept. 18,  is the early Thanksgiving, that perfect season when we might still have access to late tomatoes and zucchini, but the winter squash is coming in as well, heralding the impending chillier autumn.
Sukkot is not associated with specific foods or dishes in the same way as Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah or Passover are. However, vegetarian (or, at least, vegetable-based) dishes are a good match for the humble, makeshift setting of a sukkah, helping us embrace this holiday as a celebration of the garden and the spirit of impermanence.
This Black-Eyed Pea, Squash, and Shiitake Stew stew goes well with a simple tomato salad: thickly sliced heirlooms (of various colors, if available), drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. A possible shower of herbes de Provence would top it off nicely.
Creamy black-eyed peas and chewy mushrooms play off beautifully against golden, sweet cubes of perfectly roasted butternut squash, while lemon and mustard infuse everything with sparkle and edge. I just plain love this recipe — truly one of my favorites.
The black-eyed peas can be cooked — and the squash can be roasted — simultaneously, and well ahead of time. You can also use two 15-ounce cans of black-eyed peas, rinsed and thoroughly drained, instead of soaking and cooking dried ones.

Black-Eyed Pea, Squash, and Shiitake Stew

Serves 4-5
1 cup (1⁄2 lb.) dry black-eyed peas, soaked (see note above)
1 medium-sized butternut squash (about 3 lb.), peeled, seeded and diced in
1⁄2-inch pieces (5 to 6 cups)
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 cups minced red onion
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt (possibly more, to taste)
11⁄2 tsp. minced or crushed garlic
20 medium-sized (2-inch cap) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
black pepper to taste
lemon wedges

Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas, then transfer them to a saucepan and cover with water by at least 2 inches.  Bring to a boil, turn the heat way down, and simmer, partially covered, until pleasantly tender (but not too soft) — about 30 minutes. Drain (saving the water, if possible) and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment or foil, and slick it all over with a Tbs. of oil. (You can use a piece of cut squash to do this.) Spread out the squash in a single layer, and roast in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until fork-tender and nicely browned around the edges. (Check in on the roasting squash beginning at around 10 minutes; shake the tray from time to time. You can use tongs or a spatula to loosen and move the pieces around during roasting. You don’t want the bottom surfaces to burn.) When the squash is done, remove the tray from the oven and sprinkle the hot squash with two Tbs. of the lemon juice. Let it sit and soak this up as it cools. Meanwhile, proceed with the other items.
Place a soup pot, large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, swirl to coat the pan, and then add the onion, dry mustard and 1⁄2 tsp. of the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions become very soft.
Stir in the garlic, mushrooms and the other 1⁄2 tsp. salt. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often, and covering the pot in between.
Add the beans to the vegetable mixture, along with the remaining Tbs. of lemon juice, plus the vinegar. Taste to adjust the salt (it could need a touch more) and also shake in a generous amount of black pepper. Stir from the bottom of the pot — gently, so as not to break the beans — but thoroughly enough to get everything coated with everything else. If it seems dry, add up to 1⁄2 cup water (ideally the reserved bean-cooking water) and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or so — just long enough to heat through.
Stir in the squash (actually fold it in — very carefully, to avoid mush) shortly before serving, and heat gently to your desired temperature without actually cooking the stew further. The goal is to keep the texture varied and interesting. Serve hot, accompanied by the lemon wedges.
Serve this with your favorite homemade biscuits or with crackers and cheddar.

Mollie Katzen lives in Berkeley. She wrote this for JNS.org. The recipe is from her new book, “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation,” (464 pages, Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, $34.99), due for release Sept. 17.