Change is definitely in the air. A new year (happy 2009, everyone!), a new President (hurray!), and … in about a week, a new apartment for me and Nathan!

While moving grows into a bigger and bigger pain the older you get, I like to focus on the fact that it motivates me to purge my belongings – an early spring cleaning, if you will. Coincidentally, our move this time happens to coincide with Chinese New Year, so the purging will be doubly appropriate. Goodbye, novelty T-shirts from college! Goodbye, baggy sweaters! Goodbye, three out of six very-similar-looking pairs of khaki pants!

In the spirit of cleaning, I’m also trying to make sure we don’t have too many perishables in the fridge to move across town. And with the return of rainy weather, a stew seems to be the perfect solution.

After peeking around the fridge a bit, I spied two black radishes hiding out in a corner. (Aside: I stumbled upon that article and then realized it’s written by Andy from Mariquita, from whom I got these black radishes in the first place!) A bit of Internet searching dug up an Uzbek(!!) recipe called Khoplama and my mind was set. Because you know, I can never resist recipes from exotic places!

I mostly followed this recipe but used chicken broth instead of beef broth, pumped up the spices, and modified the steps a bit. The beauty of stews is that the quantities of the vegetables and meat don’t matter all that much, so just throw in whatever you feel like!

a good drizzle of olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
cayenne pepper, to taste
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 black radishes, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
2-3 potatoes, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onions and saute until soft and golden, about 5 min. Add paprika, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper and mix well.

Add beef and cook until brown. Add the rest of the vegetables and stir to combine. Saute for about 10 min or so.

Stir in tomato paste. Add chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about an hour. If you like a thicker stew like me, uncover after about 45 min and let the liquid reduce until you get the consistency you like.

Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Note: The paprika/cumin/cayenne provide all the flavor in this simple stew, so make sure you season it well or the flavors won’t come out and the stew will taste bland.

(Serves 6)