I just want to take a moment to address a major source of joy in my life; my crockpot. I love cooking with a crockpot. I love therapeutically chopping up veggies at night before I go to bed, turning on the crockpot before I leave my apartment for the day, and coming home after a long day of work and class to an apartment that smells like delicious soup or stew. I love that I can make myself a hot meal with minimal effort, and have it perfectly timed to be ready for when I get home, utterly exhausted and not in the mood to cook. School has started back up again, as has my new internship, so I am busier than ever. This means I’ve been using the crockpot at least once a week. Seriously, it’s a life saver.
When I saw that this month’s Recipe Redux is all about 2013 food trends, I got super excited. Apparently, 2013 will see more and more vegetables as entrees. As a vegetarian, I can’t tell you how awesome this is. But at the same time, it makes me wonder why it took so long for this to be a trend. I mean, vegetables have made up my main dish for the last 15 years!
Anyway, when I thought about a good vegetable-based entrée that would fit my busy schedule, my mind immediately when to cholent. “What is cholent?” you ask. Well….the short answer is that every culture has its version of stew, and cholent is the Jewish version. The long answer is that cholent is the ultimate purpose for the crockpot and a way for Sabbath-observant Jews to have a hot meal for lunch on Saturday. You see, all over the country - no, the world! - observant Jews fill their crockpots with their version of deliciousness every Friday afternoon, set it on low, and let it cook for hours and hours, through the night, until Shabbat lunch on Saturday afternoon when cholent takes the stage as the meal’s main course. This dish often cooks for up to 20 hours!
Recipes for cholent vary. Some people (probably most people) put meat in theirs, which can vary from chicken to hot dogs to roast. Some people put sweet potato in. I’ve also had it with jachnun, which is a pastry-type of dough thing. But cholent pretty much always has four things in common; potatoes, beans, barley, and that unique and utterly satisfying stick-to-your-ribs feeling. I grew up on the vegetarian version (again, I stopped eating meat 15 years ago, and my oldest sister was vegetarian for a few years before that, so it just made family meals easier to make it veggie), and I know people who claim it’s just not Shabbat without cholent for lunch!
This recipe is easy, delicious, and absolutely comforting. It’s full of protein and vegetables, and a bowl or two of it is really all you need to keep you satisfied on a cold Saturday afternoon. If this isn’t a vegetable-centered main dish, I don’t know what is. Here’s to a year full of slow cookers and vegetable entrees!
3/4 cup dry beans (here I used kidney, but will often mix kidney with navy and roman), soaked overnight
2 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped,
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (could also substitute sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup barley, dry
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine all the ingredients, washed and chopped, in the bowl of your crockpot and give it a mix.
2. Add enough water to the bowl to just cover everything.
3. Set the crockpot on low. Allow it to cook for 15 to 20 hours. No need to stir or fuss with it, just let it do its thing. It's done when there are still distinct pieces of vegetables, but everything has kind of melted together at the same time. Serve hot.