Beef stew with rice, onions, bacon, tomatoes and cheese: that's the basis for Julia Child's recipe for "Boeuf À La Catalane," or Catalan Beef Stew. It became the jumping-off point for an adaptation by Greg one night as he improvised on this "hearty dish from the Spanish Mediterranean corner of France," with "a green salad, French bread, and a strong, young red wine" the recommended accompaniment.
Greg substituted brown rice for the recipe's white rice, added tomato paste and extra beef stock. He doubled the garlic, yanked fresh thyme from the garden in lieu of dried thyme, refrained from crumbling the bay leaves, and substituted hearty home-made tomato sauce for fresh, seeded, peeled tomatoes. He also added more broth to allow for the brown rice, which soaks up more liquid than white rice.
Finally, instead of green salad, Greg served roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts, with braised boiling onions. The lesson: "Find a recipe you like and if you don't have all the ingredients, don't despair; improvise."