VEGAN HOT AND SOUR SOUP IN THE SLOW COOKER
I spent a wonderful afternoon with members of our veg club at The Loving Life Café in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. It’s a vegan, raw food restaurant, and the food is different and delicious. There aren’t many vegetarian restaurants in or near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I live. Loving Life is about an hour’s drive away, but it’s worth the trip.
Later this evening I made parsnip-carrot patties, but I didn’t like them, so I’m not going to post that recipe. Here is a recipe I’ve made before. I think it’s very good. It’s made in the slow-cooker (Crock Pot), so I’ve included some information about slow cookers, which I had written for the April 1006 issue of our veg club’s newsletter.
The recipe is from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, by Robin Robertson, published by the Harvard Common Press, Boston, Massachusetts, page 58
VEGAN HOT AND SOUR SOUP
makes 4 servings
slow-cooker size: 4-quarts
1/3 cup shiitake or cloud ear mushrooms
4 ounces Seitan, cut into thin slivers ( I use firm tofu, cut into strips, instead)
One 6-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained, rinsed, and cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari or other soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons minced scallions
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes to soften. Drain, cut into strips, and place in a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the Seitan (or tofu), bamboo shoots, garlic, ginger, vegetable stock, vinegar, tamari, and chili paste. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.
Just before serving, stir in the peas, scallions, and sesame oil. Serve hot.
VEGAN MEALS FROM THE SLOW COOKER
Remember the Crock Pot (the generic name is "slow cooker", "Crock Pot" is a brand name for a slow cooker made by Rival). Slow cookers were popular in the 1970's, but the for some reason they fell out of favor. Well, now they are becoming popular again, and for good reason.
Why Would a Vegan Use a Slow Cooker?
Slow cookers are great for cooking vegetarian meals because they cook bean, grain and vegetable dishes well. The gentle, extended cooking time allows the flavors to mingle and intensify.
The slow cooker is great for hot days, because it doesn't heat up the kitchen.
The slow cooker uses less energy than other cooking methods.
It has dinner ready for you at the end of a busy day.
Meals cooked in a slow cooker are great for potlucks because you can cook the meal, take it along in the slow cooker, plug it in and serve it hot right from the slow cooker.
Some Tips for Slow Cooking
Use a slow cooker that is large enough to serve your family. Slow cookers range in size from 1 quart to 6-1/2 quarts, with the smallest size yielding 1 to 2 servings and the largest size yielding 6 to 8 servings.
Make sure your slow cooker is at least half full but not more than three-quarters full. This ensures even cooking, and also makes certain that the liquid will not cook away during the long cooking time.
Defrost frozen vegetables completely before adding them to the slow cooker. Frozen foods will cool the contents of the slow cooker, which means the food inside may not heat up quickly enough to prevent bacterial growth.
Cut firm root vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips and carrots, into small pieces or thin slices and place them on the bottom of the slow cooker. Root veggies take longer to cook than other veggies, so cutting smaller pieces and keeping them covered with liquid helps even out the cooking.
Add strong-flavored vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, to the slow cooker during the last hour or two of cooking to prevent their flavors from overwhelming the dish.
Once the food is cooked, do not let it sit at the keep warm setting or at room temperature for more than two hours to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria.
If your schedule requires that you be away longer than the required cooking time of the food, plug your cooker into a timer so that the cooking can begin at a later time. you can set the timer for up to two hours later.
If the ingredients in your cooker are cold when you begin cooking (for example, if you prepare the ingredients the night before and refrigerate them over night, the cooking will take 30 to 45 minutes longer.
Cooking on the low setting takes about twice as long as the high setting. Cooking on low is recommended because the slower cooking improves the flavor.
Browning or sauteing some ingredients, such as onions and garlic, before adding them to the slow cooker improves flavor and color.
Converting Your Favorite Recipes
Any recipe that has some moisture in it should work well in the slow cooker. Cut all liquid amounts in half when adjusting for the slow cooker. Liquids don't boil away as in conventional cooking. For every hour you would cook something in the conventional oven or on the stove, allow 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high in the slow cooker. (When in doubt, turn it on low and leave it all day or overnight.)
Vegetables develop their full flavor potential in the slow cooker, so you can reduce quantities and still have great flavor. For example, if a conventional recipe calls for 2 pounds of sliced onions you could use only one pound.
Sliced fresh mushrooms, frozen peas or corn should be added during the last hour, if convenient, for better color.
Taste your slow cooker dish about 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time and adjust the seasonings as needed. Slow cooking, with long cooking times and a build-up of liquid, can result in flavors being diluted. Add additional herbs and spices to perk up the flavors if necessary.
Brighten up the flavors with salt and pepper, lemon juice or vinegar, and maybe a handful of fresh chopped parsley, basil or cilantro.
If there seems to be too much liquid at the end of the cooking time, remove the lid and turn the pot up to high, to let some of the water to cook out.