Slow Cookers: Not Just for Cholent

Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Most models are dishwasher-safe and quite easy to clean. If your conventional oven is full, a slow cooker can provide a wonderful alternative for long-cooking dishes such as stews and pot roasts.

Autumn Vegetable Soup
Yields 8 to 10 servings

This scrumptious soup from Valerie Kanter of Chicago is wonderful any time of year. Her family loves it, especially her children who devour two or three bowlfuls at one sitting. It’s perfect to serve for lunch or supper in the sukkah on Chol Hamoed.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped
6 medium carrots (1 pound), peeled and chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 medium butternut or acorn squash, peeled and cut in chunks (about 5 cups)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 medium zucchinis, cut in chunks
10 cups water
4 to 6 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic (about 1 teaspoon minced

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat. Sauté onion, celery, and carrots for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. (To cook it in the slow cooker, see method and cooking times, below.)
2. Add sweet potatoes, squash, mushrooms, and zucchinis; mix well.
3. Add water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the soup becomes too thick, add a little more water. Remove bay leaves and discard.
4. Using a potato masher, coarsely mash the vegetables while still in the pot, leaving the soup somewhat chunky. Stir in the dill, parsley, and garlic. Serve hot.
Keeps up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator; reheats and/or freezes well.

Slow-Cooker Method: At the end of step 1, combine all ingredients in the insert of a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours, or 4 hours on high.
Short Cuts: To make it easier to cut a squash, slash the tough outer skin in several places with a sharp knife. Microwave it, uncovered, on high for 4 to 5 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes, and then cut it in half or in large pieces. Remove the seeds and stringy fibers—an ice-cream scoop works perfectly.

Super Roast Brisket
Yields 10 to 12 servings

Love it tender? You’ll love this tried-and-true family favorite! It’s excellent any time of year and is a sure-fire hit for the holidays.

5 to 6 pounds brisket, well-trimmed
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 small onion, halved
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cola
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 to 3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place brisket in the sprayed insert of a slow cooker.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process onion and garlic until minced. Add remaining ingredients and process a few seconds longer to blend. Pour over brisket, making sure to cover all surfaces. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Baste occasionally.

Place insert in the slow cooker and cook, covered, on low for 10 to 12 hours until tender.

When cool, refrigerate. Brisket will be easier to slice the next day. Remove hardened fat and discard. Reheat brisket slices in pan gravy.

Keeps 3 days in the refrigerator; freezes well.

Meat Stew
Photos: Estee Gestetner

Chicken Chili
Yields 10 to 12 servings

This chili comes together quickly and makes a big batch. To save time, prepare all the vegetables in the food processor.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
1 can (5 1/2 ounces) tomato paste
1 cup tomato sauce
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 can (19 ounces), black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (19 ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 4 minutes, until softened. Add peppers, mushrooms, and garlic, and sauté 3 or 4 minutes longer.

Transfer sautéed vegetables to the sprayed insert of a slow cooker. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.

Reheats and/or freezes well.

Variation: Replace chicken breasts with 4 cups shredded cooked chicken or turkey. Add to chili the last 30 minutes of cooking. If desired, you can also add 1 cup well-drained canned or frozen corn at this time.

Vegetable soup

Stew Italiano
Yields 6 servings

Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. This scrumptious stew is quite simple to assemble—you can even do it the night before and refrigerate it, then put it up to cook in the morning. It’s lick-the-spoon good!

1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 pounds lean stewing beef or veal, cut in 1-inch chunks
2 tablespoons oil (plus more as needed)
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
Additional salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon brown or granulated sugar
4 carrots, scraped and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 cups mushrooms, cut up
4 potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1 additional tablespoon oil
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes (with liquid)

Combine flour, salt, paprika, and pepper in a plastic bag. Add a few pieces of meat at a time and shake to coat well on all sides.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to the sprayed insert of a slow cooker.

Add meat to Dutch oven a few pieces at a time and brown on all sides. Remove meat from pot as ready, adding more oil to pot if needed. Add browned meat to slow cooker insert.

Add wine to Dutch oven and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add pan juices to slow cooker along with salt, pepper, basil, oregano, bay leaf and sugar. Stir in tomatoes.

In a large bowl, combine sliced carrots, mushrooms and potatoes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Mix well and wrap tightly in foil. Place foil packet on top of meat. (Can be assembled up to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Remove bay leaf. Carefully unwrap vegetables and stir into stew just before serving.

Keeps for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator and freezes well. If freezing, omit potatoes and serve stew over broad noodles, rice or quinoa.

Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author and culinary consultant in Toronto. She is the author of nine cookbooks. For more information, visit her web site at

This article was featured in the Fall 2011 issue of Jewish Action.
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