Slowcooker Meal: Vegetable and Farro Stew with Figs

Tuesdays are the perfect slowcooker day in our home. I work late on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so a slowcooker meal means that I can come home and have a warm meal waiting for me.

I have always been a little embarrassed that I use the slowcooker as much as I do, since it has the reputation of being somewhat low-brow. So, I felt vindicated when I saw this article in Food and Wine about a fancy modernist chef who uses his slow cooker religiously, even at his upscale restaurant. This recipe is from that article, and I just had to try it. It is chock-full of veggies, and veggies are the one food group that are definitely lacking in our toddler-focused, carb-and-cheese heavy diet.

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This is the picture from the magazine. Will mine look this good??

The one problem is that this recipe has like 100 ingredients, and I have to admit here that I am horrible at following recipes. I always read recipes with such skepticism: Really? One cup of farro is enough? Let me add some more. Only 1 bell pepper? Let me throw in another. Whenever I make something that is somewhere between yuck and so-so, my husband looks at me dubiously and asks, “Did you follow the recipe on this one?” The answer is usually no.

Clare agrees- following a recipe is hard.
Clare agrees- following a recipe is hard.

So, I tried my best to stick to the original recipe, which you can find here. However, I did end up making some modifications, mostly to make this semi-intense recipe more manageable on a weeknight.

Vegetable Farro Stew with Figs and Pine Nuts

  •   2 rosemary sprigs
  •   5 oregano sprigs
  •   5 thyme sprigs
  •   1 can artichoke hearts (original recipe called for real artichokes, but I don’t have time for that)
  •   1 cup farro
  •   1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  •  1 1/2 cups tomato juice
  •    1/2 cup water
  •    2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  •    1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  •    2 heads of garlic, 1/4 inch cut off the tops
  •    1 lemon, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  •    1 poblano pepper, sliced 1/3 inch thick (original recipe called for cubanelle peppers, but I couldn’t find those.)
  •    1 bell pepper, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  •    1 medium onion, quartered
  •    1 large Japanese eggplant, cut into 6 wedges
  •    1 cup dried Black Mission figs (5 ounces), stemmed
  •    1/2 cup raisins (original recipe called for golden raisins, I decided to use regular since I already had those)
  •    1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 6 wedges
  •    1/2 pound large cherry tomatoes, halved
  •    2 small green zucchini, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces kale, stemmed and leaves quartered
  •  Chopped fresh oregano and Parmesan for garnish
  1.  Add the artichokes through the cherry tomatoes on the ingredient list, spread the ingredients in even layers. Add the fresh herb in a bundle near the top so you can get them out easily. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours.
  2. Take out the little bundle of herbs so you can stir the stew gently without mixing the herbs in. Add the zucchini, yellow squash and kale, stirring to submerge them in the liquid. Add the herbs back to the top, cover and cook for 2 hours longer on high.
  3. Pick out the herbs, season the farro stew with salt and serve with the garnishes at the table.
Before cooking
Before cooking…
After cooking! Slow cooker = magic
After cooking! Slow cooker = magic.

The Verdict:

In order for me to make a recipe with this many ingredients, it has to be worth it. And this was totally worth it. All the ingredients create such depth of flavor – there is the bright acidity from the tomatoes and lemon, earthy sweetness from the figs and raisins, spice from the poblano and crushed red pepper, and the garlic and herbs add a ton too. I would say it is more of a risotto or veggie paella than a stew. This is super satisfying and super healthy. It is definitely the best vegetarian slowcooker meal I’ve ever made.

Stay tuned for Thursday’s post on Pumpkin Pasta, and the joys of eating out with toddlers.

Dinner for Four: Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

Last night was the first time since starting this blog that we’ve had more than just the two of us at the dinner table.  So we busted out our secret weapon: the crockpot.

The Husband has been a firm believer in the crockpot since before we started dating.  And while I had some doubts initially (doesn’t all the food turn out mushy?), I have joined the ranks of the converted.  Nothing is easier than set it, forget it, eat it.  So that’s exactly what we did, plus a few bottles of wine, to delicious results.

The “recipe” that follows is more of a guideline, than a recipe.  Sadly, we didn’t capture this on camera, as I was too excited to eat and completely forgot…

Slow Cooked Pork Loin with Arugula and Mozzarella

  • olive oil
  • 1.5-2 lbs of pork tenderloin
  • 1-2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ketchup – a couple of squirts
  • about 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 package of French onion soup mix (I know, I know, but it really does add great flavor!)
  • a little something sweet – a dash of honey or a spoonful of brown sugar
  • salt, pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • arugula
  • (another) 1/2 chopped red onion
  • sliced fresh mozzarella
  1. If you have the time, sear the pork loin in olive oil until browned on all sides before putting it in the crockpot.  It will give it a better, deeper flavor.
  2. Place the pork loin at the bottom of the crockpot, pour the chicken stock over the pork and mix in the rest of the ingredients, through the red pepper.  Set on low and cook for 8-9 hours.  Go to work!
  3. With about 20 minutes to go, warm some olive oil in a saute pan, cook down the onions.  Add some salt and pepper (and if you’re like us, some more crushed reds!), and then a large bunch of arugula – it will cook down significantly!
  4. Slice the loin and serve in a shallow bowl, topped with some of the cooking liquid, a slice of mozzarella cheese, and the greens and onion mixture.  The cheese will melt and the greens will add both a spice and a texture to the pork – which should be delicious on its own!

The Verdict:

The Husband first made this meal for me after I returned from three months of living away from him.  It was delicious then, and it was delicious now.  This is definitely a go-to for easy, relatively elegant, hearty food.

Crockpotin’ Sunday: Polenta and Swiss Chard.

My husband was the first person to introduce me to the magic of the crockpot, and it is a staple tool in our house.  We had a crockpot before we had cutlery (er…silverware).  The crockpot also has its downfalls – lots of recipes can turn into long-simmered mush with indiscriminate flavor.  One of the best crockpot recipe books I’ve found is Williams Sonoma’s The New Slow Cooker.  I received this as a bridal shower gift, and despite the Washington, DC summer heat, its pages already feature cooking stains.

A Sunday at home means a more leisurely meal, and unlike work days, I can tinker around with recipes in the 3-4 hour timeframe, as opposed to the 7-9.    This Sunday’s plan was Polenta and Swiss Chard.  As it turns out, neither Trader Joe’s nor Safeway carry ground polenta, and not so much on the Swiss Chard, either.  New plan: Risotto with Bitter Greens.

Risotto

  • 3 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • garlic
  • chopped onion
  • salt, pepper
  • parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 block fontina cheese, cut into blocks

Sticking all the ingredients (minus the cheese!) in the crockpot, I set it on high for 2.5 hours and let it go, stirring a few times.  It was done at about 2 hours…and a little salty, even for my taste.  I added some water to dilute the salt taste, folded in the cheese and topped with the Swiss Chard/Bitter Greens, below.

Swiss Chard (aka Bitter Greens)

  • full bag of greens
  • cherry tomatoes
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • chopped onion

After heating the olive oil and sauteeing the onions, I added the fresh ingredients and let them cook down.  Served over the risotto.

The Verdict: 

Not a meal to make if your pants are feeling a little tight – that risotto sits in your stomach (and the cheese doesn’t help).  The risotto comes out a little gummy, and there is far more risotto than vegetables.  A good meal from the lunch leftover perspective.  All in all, something to tweak for the future.