Sunday, February 27, 2011

Slow Cooker: Tuscan Bean Stew

I picked up a slow cooker for an incredibly low price recently. It seems they are the media favorite right now. Everywhere you look, (from the supermarket check-out magazines, to emails from Sunset, to the latest cookbooks) someone is touting the virtues of the slow cooker. And then my friends and colleagues were all glowing when I asked them about their slow cooker experiences.

Well, I'm still early in on my journey but so far I've been pretty underwhelmed by the vegetarian slow cooker recipes I've seen and tried. They seem fairly bland and unimaginative. It seems that someone found the recipe book from the 1970s and put those recipes online. Haven't we learned some things since then?

Of course, I realize that I've added the extra challenge of trying fit the slow cooker into a vegetarian/pescetarian household. So I always have to be thinking about the substitute for the meat in recipes.

But I shall continue on my slow cooker journey and report out the worthy ones here. I have a few recipes on deck to try out in the near future. I've added a "slow cooker" label over to the right. too.
This slow cooker recipe was actually pretty good. Definitely a great starting point. I might add some additional seasonings next time to make it bolder.

I was also drawn to how this recipe used unusual beans which I have been wanting to explore.
The recipe calls for Borlotti beans which I made here for the first time. I was surprised to find them at my local Whole Foods. If you are looking for a good mail order store for rare or heirloom beans then be sure to check out Rancho Gordo.

This recipe was adapted from
an article in the San Francisco Chronicle and instead of chicken I used Soyrizo. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Tuscan Bean Stew

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • 1 14 oz. bag dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 14 oz. bag dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water
  • 5 cups of veggie broth
  • About 10-12 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Soyrizo, squeeze it out of the casing
  • 1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the onion, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, rosemary, oregano, bay leaf, Parmesan rind, beans, and broth into the pot of a slow cooker. Turn the cooker on low for 6 hours
  • Remove bay leaf, rosemary sprig, and Parmesan rind. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 more hour
  • Add the Soyrizo and cook another hour
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interesting CSA Alternative

This is an interesting development in CSAs. Imagine walking to your local restaurant to pick up your box? That's what's happening with this San Francisco restaurant where the chef now also provides a CSA box for pick up.

The boxes are part of chef and co-owner Dennis Lee's Community Supported Agriculture program, launched just two months ago as an alternative to the more traditional farm-to-consumer, subscription-style CSAs.

Filled with manageable amounts of vegetables and fruit for both individuals and families, the program also provides a direct line to the chef. It's about more than just getting ingredients for dinner.

His program allows customers to order a box up to about 36 hours before pickup. For $3 more, no advance orders are required; just walk in on a Sunday morning and purchase one, until they're gone. No need to commit to a weekly service.

A preordered small box, for one to two people, costs $15; a large box, feeding three to four, is $25.

Because the boxes are made up of produce from several farms, the selection can be relatively broad.

The produce is coming from County Line, Star Route, Torosian Farms, Dirty Girl and others, says Lee. A recent crate contained German butterball potatoes, Little Gem lettuce, shiitake mushrooms and lemongrass, among other items.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cilantro Chutney

I have to admit that there's a hint of disappointment whenever cilantro arrives in the box. While I enjoy the flavor, it too often sits in the fridge until it's a shriveled, withered lump of future compost. I like cilantro in small amounts. It's great in salsas but I don't make salsa all that often. I've made cilantro pesto and cilantro-arugula pesto but they are second fiddle to a good basil pesto. I was almost getting to the point of getting it banned from the delivery box. But then I found this chutney.

One evening I was wondering how to prepare a piece of swordfish that we picked up that day. I saw a recipe for a cilantro-mint chimichurri in
Bobby Flay's Mesa Cookbook that looked quite tasty. I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand so I just kind of winged it using what I had on hand. It was pretty spicy but tasty.

Ironically, the next morning's newspaper had
this article and recipe and it is pretty darned close to what I had made the night before. The chutney can be used in a variety of ways as you'll see in the article.

Cilantro Chutney

Makes 1 cup

This Indian condiment is often made with both mint and cilantro, so feel free to substitute mint
leaves for some of the cilantro.
  • 2 bunches of cilantro - I just do one bunch
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced - I used 3
  • 1 Serrano chili, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water - I skipped this step
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons) - I used limes instead
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt - I just did one teaspoon
Instructions: Rinse cilantro well and let it dry completely. Pick of the leaves and discard the stems. Place garlic and chili in a food processor and puree until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a chunky salsa forms, scraping down the sides a few times to integrate all of the ingredients. Can be stored in the fridge for several days.