I love the idea of coming home to a ready-made dinner. So when I received a slow cooker from for Christmas last year, I was delighted with the prospects. For a month or two, I tried to slow cook everything – perhaps even cold cereal and turkey sandwiches. Sadly, I only hit upon a handful of winners before petering out. Then last weekend, I hit the trifecta of recipes: Spicy Brisket with Texas Caviar from Food & Wine. This dinner took minimal time to prepare, my kids gobbled it up, and I was able transform its leftovers into killer Sloppy Joe’s the next night. (Simply reheat the beef and black-eyed peas --aka “caviar”-- with tomato sauce, mustard and molasses)
Emboldened by my success, I decided to translate one of last year’s CWJ recipes, Curried Butternut Cauliflower and Lentils Soup (Or It’s in the Soup soup) for a weeknight slow cooked dinner. Since I am not completely confident in my crock pot skills, I asked Gale, my yoga instructor and fellow blogger. Gale had offered up a lovely looking butternut soup via slow cooker on Open Mouth Insert Foods. Here’s what she said:
“As long as you let the lentils soak before putting them in the slow cooker that should be fine. I'd also still sautee the garlic and shallots/veggies together too before tossing them in the cooker. It will enrich the overall flavor. But the lentils should absolutely be fine. Since the lentils aren't cooked I'd set the crock pot for at least 6 hours. That should do the trick.”
Good advice. However, I did not soak lentils because I had no time (slow cooking is supposed to be fast cooking, right?). For a partial solution, I added the beans to the sauce pan used for the veggies, and poured water to cover them. After about five minutes, I threw those suckers into the slow cooker.
Then –here’s the best part—I left! After picking the kids up from school and delivering them to their various afterschool engagements, I returned home to smells of curry wafting through my door. Twas bliss. When the crock pot had put in its full six hours, I pureed the soup with an immersion blender. Pouring piping hot soup into my blender did not seem like a wise move.
The results were very pleasing. Even without soaking, the lentils were tender enough to puree easily. While the texture was slightly chunkier on account of the immersion blender, the flavors remained intact from my original recipe. That pungent spicy combination was exactly what I needed at the conclusion of cold, busy weekday.
IT’S IN THE SOUP –SLOW COOKIN’ STYLE
· 2 Tbsp, olive oil
· 1 ½ tsp minced shallots
· 1 tsp minced garlic
· 1 cup red lentils, dry
· 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
· 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces
· ½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed
· 1 tsp curry
· 1 tsp cumin
· ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
· ¼ tsp red chili peppers
· 2 1/2 tsp salt, added gradually
· 1 tsp pepper
· ½ can of lite coconut milk
Using a large frying pan, sautee shallots and garlic in 1 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat, until soft.
Add butternut squash and let cook covered for about 15 minutes. As squash begins to soften, add cauliflower and additional oil.
Transfer ingredients from frying pan into slow cooker, set at high heat.
Place lentils in frying pan (same one used to sautee veggies) and cover with water. Add spices. Let sit five minutes.
Pour in lentils and water, adding chicken stock and additional water, if necessary (enough to cover lentils)
Let cook for 6 hours on high heat.
Once complete, puree with immersion blender (or you can transfer soup into traditional blender using a ladle).
Mix in coconut milk. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediate with croutons and parsley.
NOTE: Apparently, I’m not the only one with slow-cooking/no-cooking on the brain. Melissa Marks-Shih of Everyone Into the Kitchen just divulged she too is a slow cooker convert. Better yet, MMS posted this recipe for Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce. My Giants-Niners menu is complete...