You can’t judge a book by its cover.
But vegetables are another story: The more vibrant the flesh, the more nutrients it contains. For instance, orange-hued winter squash are naturally chock-full of beta-carotene, fiber, magnesium and potassium.
This Pork, Fennel and Squash Stew combines squash with cubes of lean pork loin, silky half-moons of fennel, ribbons of leek, bits of red pepper and coins of carrot cooked in a reduced-sodium broth flavored with diced tomatoes and red wine.
Although stews are typically built on tough, economy cuts of meat that require long cooking times to break down the collagen, pork loin contains minimal fat, which helps create a fork-tender dish in record time.
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Cooking tips: Pierce squash several times with the tip of a knife and microwave on high power for 2 minutes. Allow to stand 2 to 3 minutes. Using a heavy, sharp knife, carefully cut off stem and cut in half. Scoop out seeds with a teaspoon. Cut squash into 1 1/2-inch wedges. Peel each wedge, then cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
The layers of a leek typically contain grit and sand, so be sure to rinse well.
PORK, FENNEL AND SQUASH STEW
Makes 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean, boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 leek, halved and coarsely chopped (white portions only)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, sliced
2 small to medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 medium to large butternut, carnival or other winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups cubes)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Spray a Dutch oven with nonstick spray coating. Add oil to pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is browned. Add onion, leek and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion wilts, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots, fennel, red pepper and seasonings; cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth and wine. Cover, heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes.
Stir in squash. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Blend cornstarch into 1 tablespoon cold water, blending until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Blend cornstarch mixture into stew. Increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.