Slow cooking makes dinner quick and easy on those busy nights

Tuesday night was slow cooker night in my house when my boys were growing up. For several years I had 6 p.m. religious school carpool pick-up duty. Without the slow cooker, dinner would have been leftovers or very, very late.

That prolonged exposure to prolonged cooked dishes has made me a fan of the appliance (also known as a crock pot), so I was excited to try Laura Frankel’s “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy” (256 pages, John Wiley & Sons, $24.95).

Frankel — a restaurant chef, working mother, observant Jew and devoted slow cooker user — has Ashkenazi, Middle Eastern and Sephardic recipes in the book, but most of the recipes are for contemporary dishes from around the world that are not particularly Jewish, such as cassoulet, tortilla soup, key lime cheesecake and flan. She also has lots of subsidiary recipes, including spice mixes, sauces and accompaniments, which she uses to develop the dishes’  flavors.

The book has a chart showing which recipes are parve, meat or dairy and the recipes give options on how to alter from one category to another. There is also a section on Jewish holiday menus.

Here are two recipes adapted from “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.” I love soups made in the slow cooker and liked the Middle Eastern feel of the chickpea and lentil soup. All the wonderful persimmons piled high at my local farmers’ market influenced the choice of the dessert pudding.

Chickpea and Lentil Soup

Serves 6

2 Tbs. olive oil

3 medium carrots, diced small

3 celery stalks, diced small

1 large Spanish onion, diced small

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced small

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups red or green lentils

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes with juice

2 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground cumin

3 Tbs. lemon juice

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper

chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

harissa or fresh salsa for garnish

Preheat a slow cooker to low. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the carrots, celery, onion, fennel and garlic until lightly browned. Put the vegetables in the slow cooker insert. Add the lentils, chickpeas, crushed tomatoes with juice, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and stock. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours. Before serving adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve the soup with the garnishes.

Persimmon Pudding

Serves 8

6 to 8 fully ripe persimmons

canola oil

3 cups whole milk or soy milk

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1⁄2 tsp. grated nutmeg

whipped cream

Puree the persimmons in a food processor. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skins and seeds. (It should make 2 cups.) Place an empty 3-quart soufflé dish into a 6 and 1/2–quart slow cooker insert. Add enough water to the insert that it comes about halfway up the outside of the dish. Remove the dish and preheat the slow cooker to high. Grease the soufflé dish with the oil. Using an electric mixer, mix the puree, milk, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until just combined. Pour batter into the greased soufflé dish and place the dish into the water bath. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Spoon the dessert into small bowls. Garnish with whipped cream.

Faith Kramer is a Bay area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].