A warming — and calming — stew for a frigid, stressful night

Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post - Butternut Squash Stew With Pomegranate Salsa.

Buy This Photo

The recipe had me at “pomegranate salsa.” I was looking for an easy, warming dish to make in the middle of the polar vortex, and the idea of root vegetables, Moroccan spices and a topping of pomegranate seeds, scallions, lime and mint seemed like it would do the trick.

Then, the morning of the day I was planning to make the stew, one of the pipes in my new townhouse froze. Every plumber I called was busy. And I had no way to warm the thing up and keep it from bursting.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

Join our live chat

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. Join us every Wednesday at noon.

More from Food

DO NOT USE. images for super bowl smackdown key.

Recipes from seven years of Super Bowl Smackdowns

The time-honored Food section tradition of recipe face-offs started with a battle over chili and has led to several game-day-worthy dishes.

A few hours later, after a quick trip to the Walmart for a blow dryer and groceries, things hadn’t improved. The blow dryer wasn’t thawing the pipe. Neither was a borrowed space heater. My tension rose along with the thermostat, which I had turned up to 85. Visions of a flooded kitchen filled my head. I turned off the water from the main, but not before saving enough from the faucets that were still flowing to try to throw together dinner.

That’s when I realized I had left one of the main ingredients — a sweet potato — in the Car2Go I had rented for my errand.

I took a deep breath. After all, the recipe I was testing came from a book called “Eat Yourself Calm: Ingredients and Recipes to Reduce the Stress in Your Life,” so why sweat it? I doubled up on the butternut squash, skipped the missing sweet potato and persevered. My companion had already eaten dinner, so while we watched TV, I ate the stew — spicy, hot and satisfying — on the couch. I don’t know whether it was the power of suggestion or whether those spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables really were helping, but pretty soon I was able to say to myself, “This, too, shall thaw. Just give it some time.”

By the next morning, it had. And I imagined that someone, somewhere was using that found sweet potato as the basis of their own calming dinner.

More food content

Show more
Read what others are saying