GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 17, 2012

Slow cooker recipes: Ribollita, applesauce

Pat's Kitchen Patricia Altomare
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — In the past couple of weeks, I have received a few requests for some meals that can be made in a slow cooker. Slow cookers are often called by one maker’s name — Crock-Pot— because they have crockery inserts.

Here I have given you a hearty soup that is colorful and fresh-tasting. In Italy this is known as Ribollita, and is almost a staple in many Italian homes.

I love making soups in a slow cooker due to the low heat and long period of cooking time. Ingredients get to blend together and every bit of flavor comes out of whatever you are making.

We all like the convenience of starting our meal in the morning, going about our day, and when ready to put the evening meal on, it’s cooked, and usually has the house smelling delightful.

You can make some good desserts in your slow cooker as well; I have seen bread pudding done and some delicious curried almonds. I offer this recipe for applesauce made in a slow cooker .

For me, my Crock-Pot has gone from a convenience to a treasured kitchen necessity, year-round.

You will find yourself making this soup often this winter; no browning, just throw everything in the Crock-Pot.

Italian Bread Soup

Serves 4 or 5

Equipment: 4 quart slow cooker

Ingredients:

1/2 large onion

1 large carrot

2 ribs celery

2 cloves garlic

1/2 pound dried navy beans (about 1 1/4 cups)

2 quarts vegetable stock or water

1 bay leaf

1 sprig dried or fresh rosemary

1 large head escarole, stemmed and chopped coarsely (may substitute kale or spinach)

2 thick slices (day old) crusty Italian bread (ciabatta or panella good), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped

salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarsely chop onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and place in slow cooker. Add beans, stock, bay leaf, and rosemary and cook, covered, on low setting for 5 hours, until the beans are tender. Add escarole, bread cubes, tomatoes, and parsley, and stir gently to mix greens into liquid. Cover the cooker, put on high setting, and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until greens aretender and soup hot.

I add plenty of black pepper at this point, as we like a lot. Remove bay leaf and rosemary stem if used.

Serve in deep bowls; pass salt shaker and drizzle with oil.

Since it is apple picking time, this would be a perfect dessert after this soup, alone, or warm and topped with some vanilla ice cream as a real treat. I double the recipe (using my 6-quart slow cooker) because it goes fast.

Old-Fashioned Applesauce

Makes close to 3 pints

Use at least a 4-quart slow cooker

Ingredients:

3 pounds red apples (8 or 9 medium); washed, cored, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks)

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Place apples in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl with 1/2 cup water and stir to dissolve sugar. Pour over apples, stirring to coat them. Cover and cook on low setting for 4 hours, pushing the apples down into the liquid a couple of times during the last hour of cooking.

You can leave the applesauce “chunky,” or you can press through a strainer to make it smooth. (Peels can be left in if you strain it or put through a food mill; it will retain a pinkish color).

Good to hear from you

Dear Pat,

Sometime ago you had in one of your columns how to make homemade pumpkin pie spice. I will be doing a lot of baking next month and it is expensive to buy. I would be grateful if you could send me the recipe.

Love your column,

Chris, Groveland

Dear Chris,

As holiday baking is coming up soon; I will repeat the recipes for these popular baking spices for everyone to have.

Double, triple or more, so you only have to make it once during the season.

Apple Pie Spice

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

1 teaspoon cardamom

Pumpkin Pie Spice

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Store in airtight screw-top jars in a cool dark place in your cupboard.

Hi Pat,

I just finished reading your column on fresh ginger. Thanks for all the tips. I have a tip for you for storing fresh ginger which I learned at a cooking class last year. Cut fresh ginger into 1 1/2 inch pieces, skin and all. Put the pieces in a glass jar and just cover with dry sherry (the real thing, not the stuff on the supermarket shelves). It will keep in your refrigerator for many months. It keeps its shape and is easy to peel or grate, plus you can easily remove the skin with the edge of a spoon.

Pat B.

Dear Pat B.,

I will add this tip to my notes. We all thank you, and you never know what you can learn in a cooking class.

Hi Pat,

A couple of weeks ago you asked about zucchini recipes. We were going away for the weekend and I forgot all about it.

You have been so helpful to me through your column and I wanted to share these two recipes with you. It is possible that you have something similar.

I receive many requests for the zucchini casserole for cookouts and pot-luck dinners. My nephew adds cooked chicken, makes a salad, and he has a meal!

The relish is something I have been making for years. When I was younger I did a fair amount of canning and then got away from it when I worked full-time.

Now that I am retired it is very rewarding and enjoyable once again.

Have a good week!

Sharon, Methuen

Dear Sharon,

Thank you for sending the recipes, I was looking for an all-zucchini relish recipe, as were a couple other readers, so I will get it to them. The casserole recipe I found in my mother’s collection; it’s a good one.

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Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.