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Posts Tagged ‘slow cooker’

Ahhhh winter. In New York City, it’s finally here. November 2009 was the 7th warmest NYC November on record, so the recent dip in temperatures feels even more dramatic, if entirely appropriate.

Soups are a favorite food of mine at any time of year, but in the winter, they taste extra cozy and inviting. Today’s Velvety Chickpea Soup is a winter favorite in my home.


Velvety Chickpea Soup made in a slow cooker. So simple!

I love chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans. They’re so versatile, filling, and high in fiber and protein.  They’re a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern food. Chickpeas are a staple in my kitchen. In fact, I made this soup from staples in my pantry. It’s simple, flavorful, and comforting. It’s one of those recipes that tastes even better after a day. The spices are key to its bold, warming flavor. Feel free to make a big ‘ol batch of it and enjoy it throughout the week.

Velvety Chickpea Slow Cooker  Soup

Serves 6-8

1 pound organic dry chickpeas

1 small onion

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

2 large garlic cloves

1 teaspoon of coconut oil or neutral cooking oil of your choice

Spice blend: Mix together 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, cardamom, paprika, fenugreek, plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and  1 Tablespoon tumeric

1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, diced.  (An 8 ounce can of whole or diced tomatoes could work here as well)

1 large carrot

Salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups of fresh, washed spinach leaves

Optional: 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, or flat-leaf parsley for garnish (or a mix of the two)

Directions:

1. Soak dry chickpeas overnight or do a quick soak. To quick soak, place chickpeas in a large pot. Pour in enough water to just barely immerse them. Bring the water to a boil, and then turn it off and remove the pot from the heat. Let soak for one hour. Soaking ensures the chickpeas will cook evenly.

2. Warm oil over medium heat. As oil warms, dice the onion and carrot. Cook onion in the oil for 3 minutes, turning often. Add in the garlic and ginger, and lower heat to low. Cook for another minute. Then add half of spice mixture, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently to ensure spices don’t burn. This process brings out the flavor of the spices. Remove from the heat.

3. Drain water from soaked chickpeas. Pour chickpeas into a slow cooker, and add cooked onion mixture. Add in the rest of the spices, the sundried tomatoes, and carrot pieces. Stir. Add enough water to just barely cover the chickpeas. Put in a bit of salt and pepper. You can add more later if needed. Cover with lid, and set slow cooker to desired time. (Slow cookers vary. I always set my slow cooker for at least 4 hours. Check your manual to see how long beans typically take to cook i n your cooker.)

4. Once the chickpeas are done (fork tender), you have a perfectly amazing meal or side dish without even taking this next step. But if you’re motivated and really want a velvety soup, try this: Remove 1 cup of the cooked chickpeas from the soup with a slotted spoon. Set aside. Next, blend remaining chickpeas in either a regular blender or by using an immersion blender. Add water as needed to get the desired consistency of the soup. Use less water for a thicker soup, more for a thinner soup. This is when the soup becomes velvety!

5. Place soup back in the crock, and add in baby spinach leaves and reserved chickpeas. Don’t worry about turning the crockpot back on to a cook setting–the heat will wilt the baby spinach leaves very quickly. The reserved chickpeas will provide a chunky treat against the velvety soup.

6. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve or let cool and save for later.

Tips and Notes:

1. Make extra spice mixture and save for another use.

2. The sundried tomatoes are a nice touch, but fresh or canned tomatoes will do. The tomato flavor gives the soup a richness and depth.

3. A squeeze of lemon or lime on top of the soup before serving is a nice touch, as is a drizzle of olive oil.

4. If you don’t have ground cinnamon, you can put a cinnamon stick in the slow cooker. Just make sure to fish it out before serving.

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Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes with a Persian flair. The secret? Saffron and a dash of cumin. Topped with raw apple and mint salsa, it's autumn on a plate.

I love fall. Love it! The beautiful colors, the cooler temperatures, the gorgeous bounty at the produce stand. The season inspired today’s recipe (pictured above): Sweet potatoes with a Persian flair! They’re topped with a fresh raw apple-mint salsa.

One of the farmers at the market told me that this year’s apples in New York and the surrounding region are particularly good. The heavy rainfall we experienced in these parts this year made them grow big, juicy, and tasty. Yum!

apple on a tree

This year has been a banner year for New York State apples. I can confirm--they're even tastier than usual this year. I'm hooked!

The sweet potatoes also seem to taste quite delicous this year as well. I wonder if that has anything to do with the increased rainfall? I’m no farmer, and certainly not a good gardener (much to my chagrin), so maybe I’m wrong. Sweet potatoes grow in the ground and not on a tree. Hmmmm, I wonder.

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are not just for pie.

Anyways, my favorite way to cook sweet potatoes lately is in the slow cooker. It’s so easy. Fast, it isn’t, but they can cook as you go about your day. The gentle heat gets them really tender and sweet. So the crockpot method is the one we’ll use for the benefit of this recipe, but you can use other cooking techniques as well.

Note: this recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

Saffron Sweet Potatoes with Raw Apple Mint Salsa

4 medium sweet potatoes

2/3  cup of filtered water

Pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

For the sweet potatoes: Clean tubers thoroughly. Make sure all traces of dirt and grit are removed. Pat potatoes dry and place in slow cooker. Pour in filtered water and cook for 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low. (Note: If not using crockpot, prick the sweet potatoes’ surfaces with a fork, wrap them in foil, and roast them in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a fork through the sweet potato. You might have to cook them longer.)

Once cooked, remove sweet potatoes from slow cooker or oven and let cool a few minutes until you can handle them safely. Peel the skins from the sweet potatoes. Don’t worry if they fall to pieces; this is fine. Place sweet potatoes back in the slow cooker or baking dish and smash with a fork or potato masher. Then mix in the spices and a bit of water if needed. Cook  on high for ten minutes to integrate the flavors. If using oven, ten minutes will suffice, also at 375.

Raw Apple Mint Salsa

2 apples

1 small onion

2 tablespoons of dried cherries or dried cranberries

2 tablespoons of fresh mint, chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons of roasted chestnuts (you can buy these bagged!)

1 tablespoon of roasted pumpkin seeds, or any other seeds you like.

Sprinkling of pickled beets

For the dressing

1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of olive oil

For the salsa: Dice the apples and onions. In a roomy bowl, mix together with mint, cherries, chestnuts, seeds, and beets. Push aside the chopped mixture and use the bottom of the bowl to make the dressing by mixing the apple cider vinegar, honey, and olive oil vigorously with a fork to emulsify. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To put the two together:

Scoop out a portion of the sweet potatoes and top them with the apple salsa.

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Dried sabzi herbs

Today we’re going to talk a bit about herbs. Cooking herbs! While the photo attached to this post certainly looks like something that’d get you detained in airport security, in reality, it’s a mixture of dried herbs, including parsley, leeks, chives, and fenugreek.

I love these particular sabzi herbs, which is what they’re collectively known as around my place.  It’s also a tiny bit cool outside, perhaps one of our last cool days for a while. So I decided to see if I could whip up a treasured Persian stew, ghormeh sabzi,  using my slow cooker. Cooking this particular stew on the stovetop can take two or more hours, so finding a shortcut is definitely in order. Some nights you need home-cooked food, not takeout Chinese.

For the record, the dish is also known as khormeh sabzi and Qormeh sabzi. (The transliteration into English from Farsi is what accounts for these variations). There are probably other spellings, too but these are the more commons ones.

Ghormeh sabzi is often called the national dish of Iran. Besides herbs, it’s  typically made with chunks of lamb and/or veal. Wikipedia describes it thusly:

The main ingredients are a mixture of sauteed herbs, consisting mainly of parsley, leek, and a smaller amount of fenugreek leaves. The herb mixture has many variations; spinach and coriander may be added. This mixture is cooked with kidney beans, green onions, chives, dried limes, and lamb or veal meat. Traditional Tabrizi Qormeh sabzi is almost always cooked with lamb and uses black-eye beans (Lubia-e-Cheshm-bolboli Persian: لوبیای چشم بلبلی) in place of kidney beans. It is then served with polo (Persian rice).

Some prefer to leave out the fenugreek, while most people consider it to be an essential ingredient. The Shirazi version substitutes potatoes for the beans.

Ghormeh (and gheimeh) may refer to diced meat. Sabzi means green and also describes various green herbs.

Good ghormeh sabzi has layers of flavor. It is not bitter at all. Since this is all an experiment and the final product is many hours away, I’ll report back later. So far I know this much: The hands-on cooking and prep time for the slow cooker version of ghormeh sabzi was about 20 minutes.

Why not post the recipe straight away, you ask? First off, we have to make sure the slow cooker version is worth posting in the first place. I wouldn’t want to steer anyone wrong. So stay tuned.


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