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
A winter weekend can be as busy as a summer one. True, we may stay indoors a bit more, but there are errands, house tasks, and of course the Sunday papers to devour. There isn’t always time to spend hours of attention to cooking yet we all look forward to having a great weekend meal. Thanks to Michele Scicolone, you can have that great meal with just modest effort on your part. All you have to do is dust off the slow cooker. You know, you have one. Somewhere. Check the basement, grab a chicken and get ready.
The Italian Slow Cooker is Michele’s latest work of culinary art. It’s a concise encyclopedia for slow cooking with recipes from soup to dessert. Whatever you crave, you can find a recipe here.
Those soups range from Butternut Squash to Zucchini with Mint and Pecorino to Calamari Soup. The fruit-oriented desserts include Pears in Marsala and Apple-Raisin Cake.
And for entrees there is plenty of pasta and protein. Whole chapters are devoted to Seafood; to Risotto, Polenta, and Grains; to Eggs, Chicken and Turkey; and to Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb.
Of course, the ever thorough Michele provides concise introductions to slow cooking, techniques, and ingredients. In just a few pages, you are fueled and ready to begin
Suzen’s eye was caught by the Country-Style Pork Ribs with Tomato and Peppers. You need a half hour of work to get started, then the slow cooker takes over for six hours. The result is an aromatic dish that tastes as rich as it looks: a deep, dark red. The flavors merge into an irresistible combination. By hour number five, your kitchen will be filled with the warm scent of melded meat and veggies. The only hard part of this dish is having the patience to wait until that meat is really, truly falling off the bone.
You can serve this dish over Michele’s slow cooked bean or rice or noodles. This versatile dish is the perfect, yet easy way to cap a busy day.
Country-Style Pork Ribs with Tomato and Peppers
4 pounds country–style pork ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup canned tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 medium red bell peppers
Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add as many of the ribs will fit into the pan without torching. Cook the meat, turning it occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Place browned ribs in the slow cooker and brown the remaining ribs.
Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the wine and tomato paste and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid begins to simmer. Stir in the tomato puree, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.
Scatter the peppers over the pork in the slow cooker. Pour on the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hour, or until the meat is tender and coming away from the bones. Discard and loose bones and skim off the fat. Serve hot.
Source: The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone