Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Slow Cooker soup

My slow cooker is a neglected kitchen appliance. Like my pressure cooker, I love to use it, but don't think of it often enough. Part of the problem is my habit of not considering a meal in advance, or when I do that not breaking free of my cooking habits. After all up until a few years ago I never owned a pressure cooker so why would I consider using it for my meals (except for risotto which is infinitely easier to make in a pressure cooker)? I've owned the slow cooker for much longer, but it requires that advance planning that I am unaccustomed to doing.

Saturday offered me the perfect time to consider the slow cooker. I was hanging out at home after work and had to consider dinner alone. In fact, I was vacillating between a quick and easy meal and a more involved one. I settled on the fast meal, but while deciding what to do I opened my copy of Slow Cooker Cooking by Lora Brody. For a couple of weeks I've been toying with using some of my dried beans and making soup. Lora's book offered a recipe for white beans in a soup that was flavored with rosemary, thyme, fennel, and garlic. It was perfect for making a batch of food to be eaten throughout the week.

On Saturday night I made olive oil infused with rosemary in the slow cooker. Just add olive oil and chopped rosemary, turn on low and walk away for a long time. While it cooked I made my rice and stir fry dinner. Once done, strain the oil and store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator. Then I set the beans in some water to soak over night.

The next morning, I put the beans in the slow cooker along with a chopped onion, 1 28 ounce can of tomatoes and their juices chopped, 3.5 cups of broth, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, carrot, salt and pepper. Turning the cooker on high, we made breakfast and then did yard work. About 5 or 6 hours later the beans were soft, but not mushy. I added some cooking greens (recipe calls for spinach) and turned off the cooker after a little bit.

At this point the cook boils some pasta and adds it to the soup to finish it. We had a birthday party to attend, so we put that off until we got home last night. It made for a quick evening meal. I boiled the pasta, reheated the soup, then added both to bowls. We topped the soup with a little drizzle of rosemary flavored olive oil and a scraping of fresh Parmesan cheese. Served with a side salad, it made for a tasty meal. We both went for seconds.

When storing this dish, I decided to keep the pasta separate from the soup. Pasta when it is part of a soup like this can sometimes get too soft and tends to continue to absorb some of the moisture. Your soup can soon look like stew. We'll combine the two as needed for meals or combine them right before storing extras in the freezer.

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