Our friend Michele Scicolone earned her general’s four stars writing a slew of wonderful Italian cookbooks. Not Italian-American. Italian. She and her husband Charles must have traveled through every village and byway in Italy by now. You can trust her books for their authenticity and the guarantee that a Michele recipe will work as advertised. Every time and perfectly. Few cookbook authors have such quality.
But Michele has not rested on those earned general’s stars. She has just published her third slow cooker cookbook. First there was Italy, of course. Then France. And now The Mediterranean Slow Cooker is ready for you to enjoy. And you will.
At the beginning of this book, Michele answers that question you now have: why a slow cooker? She tells you the why and how to choose one, provides great tips and techniques, and she even offer some safety facts — well, let’s face it, you go off to a soccer match and leave the slow cooker plugged in and what do you expect. Your next meal may be a fund raiser for the firemen who have saved you house. More seriously, for this book, Michele also outlines the ingredients you should have on hand for Mediterranean cuisine.
The book ranges from starters to desserts. Here are the chapters with a representative recipe from each:
- Soups: Winter Squash and Chickpea Soup
- Eggs: Zucchini Flan
- Seafood: Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
- Poultry: Turkey Breast with Lemon, Capers, and Sage
- Beef and Veal: Rioja Short Ribs with Chorizo
- Pork and Lamb: Lamb and Pine Nut Meatballs
- Pasta, Grains and Beans: Truffled Polenta
- Vegetables: Golden Vegetable Tagine
- Desserts: Coffee Caramel Flan
There are recipes here to suit every skill and taste bud. You can do something pretty familiar or you can venture off into a recipe that is deeply Mediterranean.
We chose the Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta. Now, shrimp themselves don’t need a slow cooker. In fact, they are only added at the very end here for 10-15 minutes. This dish could be prepared in a few minutes on the stovetop, except for the sauce part. Here, the sauce ingredients you could cook in those few minutes are slow cooked instead. Is there a difference? Of course. Hours of slow cooking generate a different flavor profile and texture. The resulting sauce is exceptionally wonderful. This recipe is the perfect example of what has been lost in our hurry-up-now world.
Michele’s book is a both a tasting and learning experience. All you have to do is plug in that slow cooker and wait. Time for a book or a bottle or both.
Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Yield: serves 6
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese [about 4 ounces]
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley
- 1 12-ounce Collins or sling glass
In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape the onion into a large slow cooker. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt to taste, and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.
Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry. Stir in the shrimp into the sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese. Cover and cook on high for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shrimp are tender and cooked through.
Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot.
Source: The Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
During the holiday season, there can be discussions between the partners in a marriage over what to serve at their next dinner party.
“Something chicken,” I began.
“NO.” Suzen was shouting again. Low frustration level. It’s her, not me.
“Cornish Game Hens with stuffing.” My mouth was watering. I like stuffing. I mean I really like stuffing.
“Brian, to serve fowl would be foul. Do you get it?”
“Yes, dear.” I didn’t but I did not want more arguing. And she had a point. After Thanksgiving, after Christmas, poultry is not a good choice. Nor is anything heavy, really. A big slab of steak with mashed potatoes is not appealing. Not even Yorkshire pudding.
The holiday meals have been big and rich. Now is the time for something delicate and light and just as far removed from a chicken as can be.
“Shrimp?” I suggested.
“Good,” she responded.
So off I went. No Googling this time. No, I went to the bookshelf and pulled out volumes twenty years old or more. And in Southwestern Tastes by Ellen Brown I found my solution.
As southwestern food fanatics, we are always up for avocados. Here’s a terrine made with avocado mouse housing sliced avocados and served with cooked shrimp over a red sauce — and you can make that sauce as southwestern and as hot as you like. The recipe for the sauce below is the original. We added some chili powder to put a zing in our mouths.
This dish presents beautifully. Suzen was nervous about the avocado mousse. She was right. Made the day before, the terrine had not set perfectly solid as dinner approached. So, an hour before the meal, we popped the terrine into the freezer then took it out and carefully sliced with a serrated knife. Avocados are tricky buggers and depending on size and ripeness, you may find the terrine a breeze or you may be resorting to some last minute tricks. It’s worth it. Our dinner guests were relieved. No one said “chicken” or “turkey” the whole night.
Given the terrine is made, that green color is going to very muted. It it looks to “Army-like” to you, then I suppose you could resort to green food coloring, but for God’s sake go a drop at a time. Too much color, against the contrast of the red sauce, and people will have visions of some B-grade science fiction movie.
Trust me. I have had green food coloring incidents with Suzen before and they were very vibrant but not pretty.
Avocado and Shrimp Terrine
Yield: serves 8 to 10
For the avocado mousse:
- 8 small ripe avocados [7 to 8 cups of pulp]
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
For the sauce:
- 8 ripe Italian plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the shrimp:
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds fresh medium-sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
Line a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper on the sides to cover the top of the mousse. Set aside.
Peel the avocados, sprinkling all cut surfaces with lemon juice. Set aside 2 avocados and cube the remaining 6 n a large mixing bowl. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, remaining lemon juice, and salt and white pepper to taste. Mash well, using an electric mixer or your hands.
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold the shipped cream into the avocado mixture, adjust seasoning as needed, and pour half the mixture into the prepared mold. Take the two remaining avocados and halve them. Place them hollow side up in the loaf pan, tap the pan down on a counter to remove any air holes, and fill with the remaining mousse.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, making sure the parchment is directly on the surface of the mousse to prevent discoloration.
To make the sauce, combine the tomatoes, cream, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stew them over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
To cook the shrimp, bring the white wine and water to a boil, seasoning the liquid lightly with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp, and when the liquid returns to a boil, remove it from the heat. Let the shrimp soak in the water for 5 minutes. Removed with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
To serve, unmold the terrine by inverting it onto a platter. Place some of the tomato sauce on each serving plate and place of slice of terrine in the center. Garnish with three shrimp each.
The terrine can be made up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated. The sauce and shrimp can also be made a day ahead. Allow the shrimp to reach room temperature and reheat the sauce slightly before serving.
Source: Southwest Tastes by Ellen Brown