Broccoli is usually cooked very quickly by steaming or in a wok. But it works beautifully in this simple Italian peasant soup by James Petersen, another testament to a very few ingredients adding up to a full, satisfying flavor. While most people go for the florets, we love the flavor and texture of the stems as well. Remember that the thinner the stem, the more tender, perhaps even not needing to be peeled. Don’t enven consider using less garlic; you want the flavor to balance out the broccoli. Serve plain, or put crème fraiche or sour cream with a bit of grated lemon zest stirred in on top.
Machine: Medium Round
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 5 to 6 hours
2 bunches broccoli, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh or dried chopped thyme or marjoram
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toasted slices of french bread, for serving
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Prepare the broccoli by cutting off the florets and chopping. Peel the stem and thinly slice, discarding the bottom 2 inches. Place the broccoli, oil, garlic, herb, broth, white wine, and lemon juice in the crock. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 hours. With the back of a large spoon, mash some of the broccoli against the side of the crock; soup will be chunky. Or for a smooth soup, use a handheld immersion blender or transfer to a food processor or blender in batches. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, passing the toast and Parmesan cheese.
Slow Cooker Vegetable Stock
If you thought that a pure vegetable stock is a new invention by vegetarians, think again. Many cooks use vegetable stock exclusively. Known as fond de légumes in French, vegetable stock is a wonderfully old-fashioned aromatic combination of mild herbs and vegetables with a decidedly neutral taste. Note that vegetables that have strong flavors, like cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts, green peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower, should be used with care; they are strong and will flavor your stock distinctly, even make it bitter. Save the potatoes, rice, and beans for adding in your soup instead of the stock. Potatoes make a stock murky from their starch, and beets will instantly tint your stock a brilliant, earthy color, which is undesirable for an all-purpose stock. Use leek tops, tomato ends, spinach and parsley stems, carrot peelings, and green bean strings. We make two different kinds; one with roasted vegetables for use in recipes that require a fuller bodied stock and one that sweats the primary vegetables in a little oil before adding the liquid for the more delicate dishes. In the summer you can add the juice from homecanned canned fruit to the stock to add a fruity flavor that is very delicate in those poached summer fish dishes or cold fruit soups. We like to use fresh vegetables for each batch of vegetable stock; old vegetables just do not cookup into a nice tasting stock.
Cooker: Large Round or Oval
Machine Setting and Cook Time: High Heat: 1 hour, then Low Heat: 4 to 6 hours
Makes about 2 quarts
2 yellow onions, peeled
2 leeks, both the white and the green, well rinsed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small bunch of celery with leaves, stalk trimmed, cut into chunks
1 or 2 corn cobs, broken into hunks (after you have cut off the kernels), optional
3 cloves garlic, smashed
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley with stems
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
1 sprig fresh thyme or marjoram
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
10 cups cold water, or to cover
Coarsely chop 2 of the onions and leave 1 onion whole and stud with the cloves. Heat oil over medium heat in large soup pot; add the chopped onion, leeks, carrots, parsnip, and celery. Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring often (This step is optional, but the initial sweating makes for a flavorful stock.). Place the corn cobs, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, salt, thyme, and peppercorns in the cooker. Add water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour, until hot. Reduce heat to LOW and simmer 4 to 6 hours more. If the water cooks down below the level of the ingredients, add a bit more boiling water.
Uncover and cool to lukewarm. Set a large colander or strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth over a large bowl and pour the broth through to strain. Press the vegetables to extract all liquid. Discard the vegetables. Salt to taste or leave unsalted. Cool and refrigerate. Divide the stock into airtight plastic freezer storage containers, leaving 2 inches at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer. The stock is ready for use and can be refrigerated up to 1 week, or freeze 3 to 4 months.
Flavor Variations to Vegetable Stock
•2 to 3 plum tomatoes add color, flavor and acidity to the broth, and are very appropriate for many summer soups.
•1 fennel bulb, diced, is bold and adds great flavor to seafood dishes, use the bulbous stalk and outer leaves.
•4 to 6 ounces fresh mushrooms or a few dried mushrooms can be added to the stock as it simmers, they add a deep, woodsy flavor, fresh ones are more tame in flavor.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2002/2016, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.