"What really struck me about cooking with the slow cooker—how easy it was."
When Stephanie O'Dea set out to make this Moroccan Lentil Soup during her yearlong slow-cooking project she had quite a bit of experience using the slow cooker (262 days worth to be precise) but had never used it to cook lentils. In fact, O'Dea had never cooked lentils at all.
I find this kind of funny since I've cooked tons of lentils in my life but had never used a slow cooker until yesterday. Shoot, I don't think I've ever eaten anything made with a slow cooker. So this week's first recipe from Make it Fast, Cook it Slow is all about firsts, first experiences with slow cookers and cooking lentils.
A bean soup seemed like the ideal first recipe for a novice slow cooker.
I had a general idea of how the cooking process worked—basically a ceramic pot is placed inside a metal housing with an electronically controlled heating element, but really all of that information came from Wikipedia (that I had read right before). I wanted to try something that seemed relatively foolproof before attempting any of the more adventurous recipes in the book.
What really struck me about cooking with the slow cooker—how easy it was. It's nothing more than prep, for lack of a better term.
All I really did was assemble my mise en place, dump everything into the pot, and wait. Being much more accustomed to more hands-on cooking methods, I kept going back over to the slow cooker, staring at it, feeling the outside of the pot to make sure it was heating (and really just waiting for something to happen). This is absolutely ridiculous since the cooking time is 8 to 10 hours and obviously nothing is going to happen right away.
After a few hours, the soup edges started bubbling and the spiced aromas started emanating. I gazed into the pot and saw the dried lentils had plumped and the soup was thickening. I went to bed wondering what state my soup would be in the next morning.
I awoke to a house that smelled incredible: cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, tomatoes and aromatic cooking vegetables. But what really blew me away? This finished pot of soup didn't require any stirring or stovetop monitoring.
The slow heat from the cooker made sure that all of the vegetables and beans were cooked perfectly, and O'Dea's combination of Middle Eastern spices infused the soup with warming and hearty flavors making it an ideal winter lunch.
Win Make it Fast, Cook it Slow
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Make it Fast, Cook it Slow to give away this week.
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 1 (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes and their juices
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Chop the vegetables and add to the stoneware. If you are rushed in the morning, consider chopping the vegetables the night before-it took me longer than I wanted it to.
Drain and rinse the beans and add to the mix. Add the dried lentils. Add the ginger, garlic, and spices. Stir in the vegetable broth and the entire can of tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.