Monday, March 10, 2008

crockpots make ugly but tasty food

this recipe was inspired by fresh from the vegetarian slow-cooker, a book by the amazing robin robertson, who also wrote the vegetarian meat and potatoes cookbook that i LOVE. and vegan planet. and lots of other books.
warning: there is no picture on this entry cos for reals, crockpots make things indiscernible enough that i think my cell phone could not capture anything. but i promise, the appearance is made up for by the genius taste.
to make up for it, here is a picture of a crockpot that looks just like mine. it is two quarts. you can tell it is not mine, though, because it appears to have green peppers in it, which i do not really want to eat.

last night, before i went to bed, i turned on my crockpot to make seitan cacciatore. admittedly, this is probably nothing like chicken cacciatore, but it is really good anyway.
it requires about 10 minutes of non-crockpot prep time, and then many hours of crockpot simmering.
first, i sauteed one package (8 oz) of seitan with a little bit of olive oil until it was browned. as it was sauteeing, i chopped up a small onion, a carrot, and a piece of celery. once it was brown, in like 3-5 minutes, i put it in the crock pot. then i deglazed the pan with some amazing apple cider vinegar--basically putting it in the pan, and scraping up the burnt on bits with the help of the liquid. once it had reduced a little, which was almost immediate, i poured it over the seitan, put some more oil in, and sauteed the vegetables. as they were sauteeing, i put like 1/3 can of diced tomatoes (a big can, so maybe like 8 oz?), a little bit of tomato paste mixed with like 1/2 cup of warm water, some dried oregano, and a couple of bay leaves in the crockpot. i also put in salt and pepper. i did NOT put in a little bit of sugar, but i would do that next time.
once the veggies were done, i put them in the crockpot too. then, i put the lid on, and turned it to low till i woke up. the recipe says 6-8 hours. i definitely was on the longer end of that, since i did all this a while before i went to sleep. in the morning, i took out the pot part of the crock pot and put it in the fridge. when i got home, i had a dinner ready to heat up that i had never eaten before!
i put it with some whole wheat pasta, which was fine, but next time i eat it (maybe for lunch?) i plan to have it with the no-knead bread i am making right now.
edited to add: i ended up eating it with the bread, and tearing up the crust (my least favorite part) to throw into the cacciatore. it absorbed the liquid really well and added a nice taste and texture to the whole thing. it makes me want to bake the leftovers with bread chunks to make a nice stuffing. just a thought.

kale and squash and ravioli and caramelized onions and green onions and...


so, last night i couldn't decide what to make, so i was looking through the recipes i have bookmarked on my computer, and found this recipe, from one of the most exciting (to me) cooking blogs, 101 cookbooks. so i set out to make it, but my usual inability to follow recipes took over and i ended up with something different.
in my fridge, i had some artichoke ravioli that was going to expire pretty soon, so that became the center of the dish. conveniently, i live right across the street from the (ridiculously expensive, faux cooperative) grocery store, so i could get everything else with very little trouble. i got my favorite green, dinosaur kale.
(isn't it pretty? look at the picture randomly found on the internet!)

i also picked up a smallish butternut squash. it is less exciting than dino kale, so no picture of that. at home, i already had green onions, parmesan, and caramelized onions.

the mention of caramelized onions brings me to a point: recently, i have been really good at, if i know i will be around for a while, caramelizing onions in a crockpot on high for about 5 hours. you can also set them on low for like 10-12 hours, and when you come home from work you will have a bunch of them! basically, i throw some earth balance (but, you can always use butter) in the crock pot, turn it on, and then set to chopping onions. i have a small crock pot, so i can get like two large and one small to medium onion in there at once. i mostly use yellow onions. i throw them in, toss them around so they are all coated with butter, and then let them cook. if i think of it, i stir them once in a while, but it doesn't seem to make much of a difference. i think i mostly do that for myself. once they are really broken down and a consistent mellow brown color, i put them in a ziploc and keep them in the freezer. it saves a huge amount of time later.

after i got home from the store, i realized i had forgotten a lemon. i decided it was not worth dealing with, and that i would cross that bridge when i came to it.
the first thing i did was chop the butternut squash. ever since i got the best peeler in the WORLD, i am willing to peel things because it is shockingly easy. so i peeled the squash, then cut off the neck. i chopped off the end of the neck, and then sliced it into like 1/2" thick-ish slices. then i cubed it. to cut the main part, i basically cut the end off the roundish part, cut what remained in half, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced that up and cubed it, now that it is manageable. cutting my smallish butternut squash, including peeling, took less than 5 minutes this way, which is clearly amazing. i put all the squash into a pan with a little bit of olive oil, on some heat that was probably way too high for it because i am into speed, and then put the water on to boil for the ravioli. every once in a while, i stirred the squash.
next i chopped up an entire kale, just roughly. i had some time, so i snipped the green onions into little pieces with my kitchen scissors (which i feel like is way faster than cutting them. also, let's be honest, by "kitchen scissors" i mean "scissors that i found in the kitchen and washed off," so don't be intimidated.
once the water boiled, i put in a package of ravioli, and a minute or two later the squash was almost brown enough, so i threw in the kale and a small handful of the frozen caramelized onions.
i drained the ravioli when it floated to the top, and threw that in the pan with everything else. i also put in a splash of lemon juice, ground on a little salt and pepper, and shredded some parmesan on it, but that is totally optional. also, i decided it needed crunch, so i put on some sesame seeds (it might have been nice to toast them, but they were an afterthought).
i stirred it and let it heat through. then i ate it, and it was amazing.