Mediterranean Beef Ragout

Makes 8 servings

2 pounds trimmed stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons ground cumin (see note 2 below)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1 cup beef stock

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, including juice

2 bay leaves

2 roasted red bell peppers, thinly sliced, then cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup sliced pitted green olives

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

1. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add beef, in batches, and cook, stirring, adding more oil as necessary, until browned, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware as completed.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add cumin, thyme, lemon zest, if using, salt, and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beef stock, wine, tomatoes with juice, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add to slow cooker and stir well.

3. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours, until mixture is bubbly and beef is tender. Stir in roasted peppers, olives and parsley. Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes, until peppers are heated through. Discard bay leaves.

Note 1: This dish can be partially prepared before it is cooked. Heat oil and complete step 2. Refrigerate overnight for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to cook, complete steps 1 and 3.

Note 2: For the best flavor, toast and ground cumin seeds yourself. Place seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind.

Judith Finlayson, “The Healthy Slow Cooker