Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 11:05 pm

The Cooking Chronicles: Random Recipes

I do my best to try and group the random series of recipes that I decide to make from week to week, and sometimes it is a great stretch to connect two seemingly diverse dishes. This time, I won’t even try!

Tuscan Kale and Farro Soup

I think I’m in love. With farro that is. We had great success with a salad recipe that incorporated the chewy, nutty grains together with a variety of fresh produce, but even better was a Rachael Ray recipe that called for farro to be served in broth.

This Tuscan kale and farro soup was not only healthy, but substantial, packed with white beans, tomatoes and kale. But it was the farro that made the dish – it was hard to think about serving this soup without the grain that added texture and a depth that no pasta or rice could accomplish. Like farro, this recipe is a keeper!

Tuscan Kale and Farro Soup

Tuscan kale and farro soup (yes, that is steam fogging up the camera lens…)

Swedish Meatballs

In the fall, I made a loose commitment that 2013 would be the year of the slow cooker for me. I had bought a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen, which, unlike most slow cooker bibles, features colour photographs of every recipe. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize until I took a closer look at the book was that many of their recipes involved several steps that preceded the use of the slow cooker, or, a technique of cooking part of the dish in a foil packet that would rest on top of the bubbling mass. I wasn’t too comfortable with the latter; baking in parchment is one thing, but cooking for a prolonged period of time in foil is another.

I finally attempted a recipe that fell into the first category – even though I resented it almost the whole way through (why was I “slaving away”? how many dishes is this going to take? wasn’t the slow cooker supposed to do the heavy lifting for me?). The recipe for Swedish meatballs involved browning the meatballs in a hot oven first, and preparing a gravy. I halved the recipe – 60 meatballs seemed a little much for two people, even for leftovers. After the fact, I found that it was a great technique to help render out some of the fat, and it wasn’t as time consuming as I originally thought.

Swedish Meatballs

Baked meatballs

In hindsight, I should have kept the originally specific amount of gravy – the final product was a little dry. The meatballs themselves had a good flavour profile – the allspice and nutmeg really came through – though both Mack and I commented that they didn’t have that telltale processed “springiness” of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs, made with First Nature Farms beef, served with Erdmann’s mashed potatoes

I’m not sure the time in the slow cooker really showed, though I’d have to compare it with a straight baking technique to be sure. This recipe might come in handy for entertaining, but otherwise, I will be sticking to other meatball recipes in the future!