The Gourmet Touch: Crock-Pot or stove top? Both cook a mean Tuscan bean
by Prudence Hilburn
Special to The Star
Jan 30, 2013 | 2990 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have often wondered whose idea it was to invent the slow cooker, better known to some as the Crock-Pot. Could this idea have come from a mom having to prepare a hearty meal for her family after a long day working outside the home?

Maybe not, but it seems reasonable. The Crock-Pot has come to my rescue many times.

This handy small kitchen appliance has had many facelifts since the model I used shortly after getting married many years ago. The inside crock could not be removed from the heating element so it was rather hard to clean. We also didn’t have a choice of different sizes back then. I still have a 3-quart model but now also have the 5-quart oval one.

At a recent cooking class I made Tuscan bean soup with prosciutto, and it was a hit. I had found a similar recipe in a small cookbook, “Crock-Pot Soup and Stew Recipes.” I didn’t have time to use the slow cooker in a two-hour class, so I adjusted the recipe to be made in a soup pot on top of the stove. Instead of the dried beans, called for in the Crock-Pot version, I opted for a Tuscan favorite, cannellini beans. Using canned beans shortened the cooking time considerably. I also substituted Italian parsley for the cilantro called for in the original recipe as I have found fresh cilantro is an acquired taste that not everybody likes.

Prosciutto, an Italian ham that is usually sliced ultra thin, is used in both versions. If you prefer, you can substitute four slices of bacon instead.

Your choice, Crock-Pot or not? I think that you will like either of the following versions. Just think, you can put the Crock-Pot to work while you sleep and have soup almost ready for lunch when you awake.

Crock-Pot Tuscan Bean Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices prosciutto
3 cups chicken broth or water
1½ cups dried navy beans, rinsed and sorted
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt, to taste (if using chicken broth, cut back on salt)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground paprika
2 cans (14.5 ounce each) diced tomatoes

Fry the prosciutto in butter until crisp. Drain on paper towel. When cool, crumble the prosciutto and put in Crock-Pot.

Add broth or water, beans, onion, Italian parsley, salt, cumin, pepper and paprika. Stir well. Cover. Cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Stir in tomatoes. Cover and cook on high for 30 to 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Stove Top Tuscan Bean Soup with Prosciutto

2 tablespoons butter
4 slices prosciutto
2 cans cannellini beans (do not drain)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Salt, to taste (I prefer Kosher salt)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground paprika
2 cans (14.5 ounce each) diced tomatoes

Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add prosciutto and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble the prosciutto.

Combine the remaining ingredients in soup pot and cook until onions are tender. If the soup seems too thick, add a little chicken broth or water. Sprinkle a little prosciutto on top of each serving.
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