Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A New Favorite

Can you tell this is a crockpot dish?

Maybe I'm slow on the uptake, but I had no idea you could make so many things in them. I've always associated the crockpot with slow-cooked meats and stews, the kind of thing I would only make on special occasions for a large group with a hefty amount of animal protein. Because of this I didn't own one until last year when I was gifted with one. She's a petite red model, 4-quart capacity with a removable insert (key for cleaning), and low, high, and warm settings.
I made one of Ray's favorites, beef stroganoff, in the winter. But the pot remained in its box for the most part until recently when I came across a collection of eye-opening recipes. I realized this is what I was lacking- inspiration and the desire to try some new cooking techniques. The possibilities were tantalizing- dips, soups, fish, even dessert! The crockpot has come out of the box and has been living on my counter ever since.
This soup is one of my first dishes as I emerged from my morning sickness coma.
I've had it three times now and it has become an all-time favorite. Soups and the crockpot aren't only for cold weather! This is a wonderful springtime dinner, with light vegetables and a salty richness from the cubes of pecorino.
As easy as soup is, it's even easier in the crockpot. A bit of quick sauteeing in the beginning before adding all the ingredients to the pot- and that's it!
Set the pot on low or high depending on how much time you have, and walk away. A speedy chop of parsley and cheese at the end to finish the soup, and you have a hearty bowl paired with some toasted bread. You get protein from the healthy portion of cheese; you could add more on the side in the form of some grilled chicken or an omelette.
Pecorino romano is a wonderful cheese similar to parmesan, but stronger and more pungent. I often favor a grated parmesan-romano blend to reap the benefits of both, but you can also buy it in wedges which is what I use here. The cubes and their flavor melt into the soup. It's a salty cheese so I would recommend stirring it in before you check for seasonings.
Tomato and Barley Soup with Pecorino
taken from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
serves 6
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
olive oil
4 cups broth- chicken, beef, or a combination
2 cups water
1 cup barley, rinsed and picked over
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup diced Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large handful chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium skillet, saute the onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape the vegetables in the crockpot. Add the broth, water, tomatoes, and barley. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours* until the barley is tender. Stir in the cheese and parsley. Test for seasonings, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
*Cooking time can vary depending on the size of your crockpot. My 4 quart is smaller than many recipes use, so my cook times are quicker. This soup is forgiving, so if you notice it has cooked faster than you expected, simply turn off the machine and keep it covered. Add the cheese and parsley once you are ready to serve.


Erica said...

I LOVE my slow cooker. My favorite thing to make in it is "refried" beans. Amazing. Lasts me the whole week to put on top of salads or inside a tortilla. This dish looks amazing- I bet the house smelled delicious.

Unknown said...

Never fails, every time I use my slow cooker I wonder why I don't use it more. it's amazing. and i'm loving this dish. i recently used some of the barley sitting in my pantry and loved it. i'll have to remember it for soup season!

Kelly said...

Looks like a great dish. I've slowly started using my slow cooker more and more, though not for the most exciting of things. I love using it to cook up dry beans so I always have some on hand.

I find it amusing that now that you are pregnant and in theory should be crazy busy we're hearing from you more and more!