Let’s Talk Food: Let’s talk slow cooker soups

The first day of spring is two weeks away, on March 20, but it seems we still have the cool and rainy weather that is perfect for soup.

Many mothers work, and time is of the essence. Cooking in a slow cooker allows dinner to be made while they are at work.

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The first slow cooker was invented when the Rival Company bought Naxon in 1970 and reintroduced it under the name of “Crock-Pot” in 1971. This new small appliance was timely, as women were working in greater numbers and this helped them prepare dinners while they were at work.

French onion soup was eaten as far back as Roman times and started out as a great soup for poor people, as onions were easy to grow and abundant. The modern version of the soup originated in Paris in the 18th century. Its popularity in America was thanks to Julia Child and the great interest in French cooking.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Serves: 6

Place in bottom of 6-quart slow cooker:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

Add:

5 pounds sweet onion, sliced in half, then vertically sliced (16 cups)

1 tablespoon sugar

Turn on slow cooker to high and cook 8 hours.

Remove thyme sprigs, bay leaf. Add:

6 cups unsalted beef stock

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Turn on slow cooker to high for 30 minutes. Preheat broiler. Arrange on single layer:

24 (1/2-inch) slices baguette

Broil for 30 seconds each side, until toasted. Pour soup in six 8-ounce ramekins or ovenproof soup bowls. Top with two slices of toasted bread and divide evenly:

5 ounces (or 1 1/4 cups) shredded Gruyere cheese (2 tablespoons each)

Broil for 2 minutes until cheese melts and begins to brown.

• • •

Here are a couple of other slow cooker soup recipes that are sure to tickle your taste buds:

Slow Cooker Chicken Posole

Cooking Light; January/February 2017

Serves: 6

Combine in a 6-quart slow cooker:

2 cups water

2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper (1 medium)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (28-ounce) can white hominy, drained

Add and submerge:

2 (10-ounce) bone-in chicken breasts, skinned

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove chicken from cooker. When cool enough to handle, remove bones and shred chicken into large pieces.

Return chicken to slow cooker, stir in:

1/3 cup finely chopped peeled tomatillos

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Divide soup among six soup bowls, top evenly with:

1/3 cup sliced radishes

1 1/2 ripe avocados, slices

3 ounces tortilla strips

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

• • •

Slow Cooker Lemon Rosemary Lentil Soup

Serves: 6

In a 6-quart slow cooker, add:

6 carrots, diced

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups red lentils

4 cups chicken broth

2 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cook on low for 6 hours.

Stir in:

1 lemon zest and juice

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

Ladle into six bowls and serve.

• • •

This bean and ham soup is a long-standing tradition on the U.S. Senate lunch menu:

U.S. Senate Navy Bean Soup

America’s Test Kitchen

Serves: 6

Microwave until onions are soft, about 5 minutes:

2 cups chopped onions

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in:

1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed

7 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

8 ounces ham steak, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 smoked ham hock, rinsed

Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 10 hours on low or 6 to 7 hours on high.

Transfer ham hock to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred meat into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. Stir shredded meat into soup and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and season with salt, pepper and extra vinegar to taste. Serve.

Foodie bites

• Hominy is dried corn kernels treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization. Field corn grain is dried, then treated by soaking and cooking the mature hard garin in dilate solution of lye (produced from water and wood ash) or slaked lime (calcium hydroxide from lime as in limestone). The soaked maize is washed. Alkalinity helps dissolve hemicellulose, the major glue-like component of the maize cell walls, and loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. It also kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. It provides a source of dietary calcium, and the lye or lime reacts with the corn so the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract. Hominy is finely ground to make masa.

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• The Hawaii Community College Culinary Program’s Cafeteria and Bamboo Hale are open for business today through Friday. The Bamboo Hale is featuring the foods of China and also is offering the Asian standard menu.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.