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I was looking through the AOL Food page today and they are featuring a survey contest to determine America's favorite chef. All the usual suspects are in the running, with the exception of Martha Stewart, who seems not to be limited to the category of chef. My vote goes to Emeril Lagasse, and in honor of him I have adapted one of his recipes to organics. Put this beef stew together and enjoy it one cold winter night.

Down here in southern Arizona I am riding my bike around the block with my dog in shirtsleeves, because temperatures here are in the usual mild Southwestern range. I am still getting guilt with the news reports of extreme weather conditions, to say nothing of the huge indifference with which our elected officials treat the unnecessary suffering of our fellow Americans.

I buy organically-raised meat at Sprouts in Tucson, but Whole Foods has an outstanding butcher counter that features both meat and seafood. The extensive produce section in Whole Foods offers prepped vegetables as well, such as chopped onions, that make cooking easier.

One thing that I recommend is: do not cook with red onions; they turn an unappetizing gray color when they are cooked, much like red potatoes. I like red onions in salads and sandwiches, and we all know they are wonderful, but for cooking I like sweet Maui or Vidalia onions, or just the yellow onions that we see everywhere.

EMERIL'S ORGANIC BEEF STEW

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons organic olive oil
3 pounds organically-raised beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons Essence
1 teaspoon ground organic black pepper
3 Tablespoons unsalted organic butter
1 pound organic button mushrooms, quartered
2 cups roughly chopped organic yellow onions
2 cups sliced organic carrots, (1-inch slices cut crosswise on a diagonal)
2 organic celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon roughly chopped organic garlic
4 Tablespoons organic all-purpose flour
4-1/2 cups organic beef stock, at room temperature
1/4 cup organic tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 to 4 cups 1-inch dice organic new potatoes
1 cup frozen organic green peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Set a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pot and season the beef with the salt, Essence and black pepper, being sure to toss the meat well to cover evenly with the spices. Add 1/3 of the beef to the pot and cook until browned on all sides, 2 or 3 minutes per side. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil to the pot along with half of the remaining meat and cook again until browned. Set aside and repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil and remaining beef. Set aside.

Add the butter and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until onions are softened and lightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, thyme, rosemary, allspice and browned beef and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Add the potatoes to the stew and partially cover the pot with a lid. Continue cooking until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and discard the thyme and rosemary stems. Add the peas and parsley to the stew, stir well to combine, then remove from the heat.

Essence, mentioned in this recipe, is one of Lagasse's trademarked seasoning mixes. They are found in Tucson's supermarkets in the spice aisle, along with some other products that he markets. It is a good all-purpose seasoning, so once you buy it you can try it on omelets and soups, or whatever.

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