• Yield: Serves 4 to 6

I swooned the first time I made this. What makes it exceptional? It's hearty, deeply flavorful, lapped in a rich, glossy, savory sauce, spiked with red wine—serious wintertime satisfaction in a bowl. It is everything you want from a stew, from the seductive aroma with which it warms the house as it simmers, to its robust, filling substance and big, distinct ("manly," we might have said in pre-feminist days) chunks of potato and other vegetables. Dried shiitakes absorb the ragout; garlic (and no wimpy amount of it, either) is used almost as a vegetable in its own right. And, though it seems impossible that something so stalwart should be low fat, low fat it is.

Note: I make this dish in a heavy-gauge, nonstick Dutch oven. If you use a conventional cast-iron or enamel-clad one, spray the heck out of it with cooking spray before you start, and expect to stir the dish considerably more often than I suggest here to prevent sticking.


  • Cooking spray

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 large onion, cut vertically into thin slivers

  • 1/4 cup unbleached white all-purpose flour

  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1/4 cup tamari or shoyu soy sauce

  • 1 cup hearty, full-bodied, tannic red wine such as Cabernet, Barolo, or Barbaresco

  • 1 cup canned diced tomato in tomato puree

  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1/4 teaspoon Dragon Salt (see below)

  • A major grinding of black pepper—1/2 to 1 teaspoon or so

  • 8 to 10 cloves garlic, quartered or thickly sliced

  • 6 to 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, broken roughly into quarters

  • 1 package (8 ounces) "traditional-style" dark seitan, well drained, diced into beef-stew-size squares, 1 to 1 1/2 inches

  • 4 small potatoes, scrubbed, peel on, cut into large pieces

  • 2 carrots, scrubbed, peel on, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch rounds

  • 1 parsnip, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 2 cups green beans, stemmed and sliced into 2- to 3-inch pieces

  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces

  • Minced Italian parsley (optional)

Dragon Salt:

  • 1/3 cup salt, preferably sea salt

  • 1/3 cup medium-coarse grind black pepper

  • 1/4 cup ground cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 cup dried dill weed

  • 2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

  • 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves

  • 1 tablespoon celery seed


1. If using a conventional Dutch oven, spray it with cooking spray, but you will have better results with a nonstick one. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it starts to brown but is still a little crisp, about 6 minutes.

2. Sprinkle the onion with the flour and, lowering the heat to medium, continue to sauté for 4 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup of the stock, stirring to blend it into the flour. When the liquid is free of any flour lumps, add a little more stock. When it is well incorporated, add the remaining stock, stirring. Add the nutritional yeast, stirring as the flakes dissolve. Add the tamari, wine, tomatoes, umeboshi plum vinegar, honey, Dragon Salt, and pepper. Stir in the garlic and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer.

3. Drop in the shiitakes along with the seitan, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, and green beans. Lower the heat slightly. Cover and cook, stirring every so often, at a bare simmer until the potatoes are nearly done, about 35 minutes. Uncover and add the zucchini. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender but still holding their shape, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot, with a sprinkle of parsley, if desired, dragon salt (see below).

Dragon Salt:

Combine all ingredients and store in a tightly sealed jar.

Adapted from The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing Company, 2002). Copyright 2002 by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Crescent Dragonwagon
Crescent Dragonwagon is the author of several novels, children's books and cookbooks, including Bean by Bean: A Cookbook.