Slow Cooker Vegan

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We got a slow cooker for Christmas in our London kitchen and I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks for inspiration: Slow Cooker Italian by Michele Scicolone. I had used my US slow cooker to make sumptuous pots of beans based on a recipe in Michele’s book and decided to give it a go here using black turtle beans. The recipe is simple: 1 cup of beans to 6 cups of water, seasonings or herbs if you want (I used a whole jalapeño and some sprigs of fresh oregano) then cook on low for 8 hours.

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I love the versatility of having a pot of beans handy; they can go into bowls with rice, greens, veggies, and any leftover proteins that are hanging around or can be made into a pot of soup or blended into a dip or sandwich/quesadilla filling or added to a wintry mix salad. I chose to make tostadas with some mole sauce I had stashed in the freezer and enhanced those flavors with grated raw beets, juicy ripe avocado and a few baby lettuce leaves.

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If you want to get creative you could make the corn tortillas – they are dead easy but just take a little technique – I like this tutorial from Kitchn. You can get masa harina – the cornmeal mixture you’ll need – at Cool Chile Company online or at their stand in Borough Market.

And if you have some time on your hands and the inclination to do some cooking, try making your own mole sauce. My favorite recipe (this link is to a blog with the recipe and handy photos of the steps that go into making this ancient sauce) is the one from Cafe Pasquale, a fantastic restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It has a long list of ingredients, including a few different types of dried chiles which you can also get at Cool Chile or at Mestizo Mexican Market on Hampstead in Kings Cross, London. The mole sauce is very concentrated and rich – a little goes a long way – and you will have enough to furnish your freezer with 8 to 10 1-cup containers which would garnish the tostadas of a very large party.

One final note – this recipe idea is vegan and gluten free, a welcome thought after all the holiday feasting.

 

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Artichoke Love

Artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables and this year I’ve been lucky to have several healthy plants in the garden.

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Since mine aren’t quite ready yet, I’ve been buying them at the market and cooking them up for dinner. You want to look for chokes that have tight leaves and feel dense and solid when squeezed.

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First I cut them in half lengthwise.

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I use my biggest soup pot with a lid and add plenty of water as well as a whole lemon, cut in half and the juice squeezed into the mix.

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Put the lid on, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until a leaf pulls off easily and is tender to the bite, usually about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the choke.

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Once the delicious chokes are cooked, drain, put on plates and serve with your favorite dip. Here are some of my favorite dip choices, pictured here:

Chunky, spicy guacamole

Hummus mixed with olive oil and a little lemon juice until thin and dip-worthy

Melted butter with a good squeeze of fresh Meyer lemon juice, salt and pepper

Nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with pesto, salt and pepper

Mayo mixed with fresh lemon juice (equal parts), salt and pepper

Bon Appetit!

IT’S FINALLY APPLE TIME

When I started this blog, I came up with a list of possible names for it that tickled my fancy. Then I went to buy the domain name and the entire list was already taken. So it was back to the drawing board, but I was out of ideas. One day I was talking to my friend, Judy, and put the question to her. She immediately came up with “Too Many Apples”, because every September I am buried with the bounty from three very productive apple trees.

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One of my favorite things to do with fresh picked apples is to make applesauce, which is a snap if you use a food mill.

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Wash the apples.

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Cut them into quarters, removing anything that is ugly, but otherwise leaving the skins and cores on.

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Load into a large saucepan and add about 3 inches of water, then cover and bring to a boil.

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Lower the heat to a simmer and stir the apples up from the bottom every 5 minutes, until the apples break down and are completely soft, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the apples to the food mill, which you have perched over an adequately sized bowl.

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Keep adding apples to the mill until they have all been processed.

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Taste the sauce and add brown sugar, a good dose of cinnamon and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg then stir to combine. Taste again and add more sweet or spice to your liking. Served warm, the applesauce is akin to a down comforter on a dark, stormy night, the essence of comfort in a mouthful.

HOMEGROWN APPLESAUCE

4 lbs of apples, washed and cored

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

If you don’t have a food mill, follow the same method but peel and core the apples then, when they have softened, mash them with a potato masher to your desired consistency.