Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Plug it in, walk away-and cook like an Italian grandmother. 

Yes, it's that easy.  Michele Scicolone, a best-selling authority on Italian cooking, shows how to re-create the traditional flavors Italian food in your slow cooker.  Meat and Mushroom Ragu, Milan-Style Pasta and Beans, Sicilian-Style Orange Chicken, "Big Meatball" Meat Loaf, Osso Buco and Red wine-with just a few minutes of prep time in the morning, you can come home to an authentic Italian meal that you'll be proud to serve to family or company.  Simmered in the slow cooker, these dishes are as healthy as they are delicious.  Risotto and polenta are effortless-no need for all the usual stirring-inexpensive tough cuts of meat turn luxuriously succulent, and cheescakes emerge silkily flawless.  Just one question:  Why didn't someone think of this before?

I tried a few of the dishes in the book and for the most part I really enjoyed them.  I'm sorry to say that once again I'm having to do this review without pictures because I've been a lazy little boy and have not replaced my digital camera yet, so I apologize for you not being able to see how good the food looked once it was done.  The only thing that was better than the look was the smell and the taste of it.  One note I will say, and one I almost missed in the book, is that the recipes are for a slow cooker that is 5-7 quarts.  I'm going to share two of the recipes I tried out and I encourage everyone to give them a shot.

Calamari Soup

1  medium green bell pepper, chopped
2  large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4  cup olive oil
1 1/2  pounds cleaned calamari, cut into 1/2 inch rings
1  cup peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1  large carrot, chopped
2  medium celery ribs, chopped
2  medium potatoes, diced
1  8-ounce bottle clam juice
5  cups water
2  cups fresh or thawed frozen peas
1  cup white rice
Salt and freshly groud pepper
2  tablespoons copped fresh basil or parsely

In a large skillet, cook the bell peppers and garlic in the oil over medium heat until tender, about 15.  Scrape the mixture into a large slow cooker.

Add the calamari, tomatoes, carrot, celery, potatoes, clam juice and water.  Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.  Add the peas, rice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes more, or until the rice is tender.  Stir in the basil or parsley and serve hot.

Because I'm allergic to green bell peppers I did use red bell peppers instead, other than that I did it exactly the way the recipe is written and I loved it.  I had my first bowl with parsley and while I like it, I tried it the next day for lunch and used basil instead and enjoyed that better.  I ate this with a arugula salad and some toasted Italian bread.  The recipe said this serves 6, though we got 7-8 servings out of it.

Pears in Marsala

1/4  cup packed brown sugar
1/4  cup Marsala
1/2  cup organge juice
1  cinnamon stick
6-8  firm ripe pears, such as Bosc or Anjou

 In a slow cooker, stir together the sugar, wine, orange juice, and cinnamon stick.  Place the pears upright in the cooker and spoon some of the liquid over them.  cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or unitl the pears are tender when pierced with a knife.

Uncover and let the pears cool in the cooker, basting them from time to time.  Carefully transfer the pears to a serving dish.  Discard the cinnamon stick.  Pour the juices over the pears and chill until serving time.

Loved, loved, loved this one.   I love pears, love Marsala so it was a perfect combination for me.  The book suggested serving with a blue cheese like Gorgonzaola and since I enjoy the cheese I tried it and found it to be a nice contrast in flavor.  I also tried it with a Havarti, which I enjoyed as well.

I was sent this book from the publicist for review and I'm thanking them every day for it.


Krista said...

Oh I really want this one now! :) Sounds yummy thank you Ryan!

IceJewel said...

Yummm..! I cook only if someone is there to clean up the mess..hehe :) Will try them some Sunday !

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I love Calamari but I've never had it in soup. Delicious!

Anonymous said...

The pears in marsala recipe looks sooo tempting. I admire the book cover too; it reminds me of one of my favorite food books ever, The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Heidenkind said...

I don't have an Italian grandmother. So obviously I need this book. :)

Staci said...

The pear recipe sounds delicious. I love great slow cooker recipes!! Makes life so much easier!

Anonymous said...

I need to pick this one up. The pears sound delicious, but I think I'd be the only one at my house to try the soup. My hubby and daughter are afraid of calamari.

Cecelia said...

Oh - those sound delicious. You DO need to get on the ball, because I'm sure I'd try to hop through my computer screen if there were actually photos of this food (and that's a good thing).