Christine Burns Rudalevige’s very favorite cherry-red five-quart Staub La Cocotte cast-iron pot with a textured black matte enamel interior that requires no seasoning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Whether the bottom-line number relates to the bathroom scale, your credit card balance or a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to affect climate change, the beginning of any new year is a great time to revisit how you cook on a day-to-day basis.

This year, I am revisiting how I use my cherry-red five-quart Staub La Cocotte cast-iron pot with its textured black matte enamel interior that requires no seasoning.  I bought this little beauty as a 50th birthday present to myself five years ago and have predominantly used it as a vessel for long, slow-cooked, meaty meals like my kids’ favorite Bolognese; baked beans and long-simmering stews.

But based on great information I found in British vegetarian cookbook author Anna Jones’s book “One Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You and Your Family,” I am now using my French-made Dutch oven for quicker all-in-one meals with a green-eating flare with lots of interesting flavors from away in the mix.

Jones’ book encompasses all the topics regularly discussed in this column, buying food produced sustainably and as locally as possible, eschewing plastic packaging, planning vegetable-forward meals and not wasting food. But she focuses on recipes that are inspired by a wide variety of world cuisines and come together quickly in one pot (soups, stews and curries), pan (fritters, pancakes and crispy-edged veg) or baking tray (inventive meals like pea, mint & preserved lemon phyllo tart and quick squash lasagna) keeping prep time to a minimum as well as saving the time, water and energy required to clean up after the meal.

She uses a Dutch oven to toast nuts, spices and dried chilies, dry fry vegetables like eggplants to char them, and create miso chili pastes and turmeric and ginger bases. She cooks beets and orzo together in the same pot and layers myriad ingredients in a pot in a fashion so they are ready to eat all at the same time.

Muhammara and Chickpea (or white bean) Stew, topped with lemon zest and served with broccoli rabe, is a one-pot recipe. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

While I completely recommend contacting your local bookseller or library circulation desk so that you can spend some time with this cookbook, I want to walk through Jones’s Muhammara and Chickpea Stew, pointing out as I go, all the things I learned on how to build great flavor into this dish that came together with the use of my cherry-red pot (and my blender) in 25 minutes flat, start to finish.


First, you toast nuts and cumin seeds for a minute in the pot to help intensify their flavors. You toss those and a jar of drained roasted red peppers, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to make muhammara, a punchy dip typically made in Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. You tip the muhammara in the pot with several cups of canned chickpeas or cooked local beans and some vegetable broth to loosen.  Bring the combination to a simmer and to round out the meal, place several cups of torn greens on top of the stew to steam while the legumes soak up the flavor of the sauce.

The flavor is knock-out delicious. And cleanup is a breeze. It’s just one example in Jones’s book that clearly illustrates where the theory of eating sustainably can easily intersect with the reality of busy lives.

Muhammara and Chickpea (or white bean) Stew Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Muhammara and Chickpea (or white bean) Stew

This recipe, from British chef and cookbook author Anna Jones, comes together in 25 minutes in one pot. I localized this recipe with soldier beans from Fair Winds Farm in Bowdoinham and frozen roasted red peppers from Whatley Farm in Topsham. Also, I garnished the stew with lemon zest as to not waste it.

Serves 4

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 7-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups cooked chickpeas or beans
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 cups torn greens
Crusty bread for serving

Put nuts and cumin seed into a Dutch oven and toast until the nuts are just turning golden and the cumin start to smell wonderful.  Tip ingredients into a food processor and add red peppers. Blitz to a paste.  Add tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, Aleppo pepper, half of the lemon juice and a good pinch of each salt and pepper. Blitz again until smooth. With the processor running, slowly pour in the oil until the muhammara is very smooth.  Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.

Pour the muhammara, chickpeas or beans, and broth into the Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and let the sauce thicken for 10 minutes. Top the simmering stew with greens, cover the pot, and cook until the greens are tender, 5-7 minutes.

Serve warm, garnished with lemon zest, alongside crusty bread.

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