During warm-weather months, many families are more on-the-go than ever, with jam-packed, activity-filled days. Quick, thrown-together, indistinguishable meals are often the solution. Sometimes, nutrition suffers, too.
If you think the nutrient-filled, hearty dishes whose flavors meld for hours in quick-prep, low time-commitment slow cookers are only for winter, think again. Lighter warm-weather fare is also an option that can cook to perfection for hours while you’re on the move.
Bestselling cookbook writer Judith Finlayson is the author of a number of nutrition-themed slow cooker books, such as ones on diabetes and the Paleo diet. In her second edition of “The Healthy Slow Cooker,” she incorporates nutritious ingredients such as nuts and seeds, fresh leafy greens (like the watercress and walnuts in the following chilled soup), warm-weather seasonal fruits like fresh apricots, barbecued foods like grilled chicken, and lots of light seafood recipes, such as this Mediterranean-style mahi-mahi:
SLOW COOKER MEDITERRANEAN-STYLE MAHI-MAHI
Yields 4 servings. (See Note.)
2 lbs. Mahi-mahi steaks
1 tsp Dried oregano
1 Lemon, thinly sliced
1 (28 oz.) can No-salt added tomatoes, including juice, coarsely chopped
½ cup Dry white wine
¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp (preferably sea) salt, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Gremolata garnish, optional:
½ cup finely chopped parsley leaves
3 Tbsps drained capers, minced
2 whole anchovies, rinsed and finely chopped
Chopped black olives, to taste
Use a medium to large (3½- to 5-quart) oval slow cooker. Place fish in slow cooker stoneware. Sprinkle with oregano and lay lemon slices evenly over top. In a bowl, combine tomatoes and juice, wine, 2 Tbsps of the olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Pour over fish. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork. (It is difficult to be specific about the timing because of the fish, but you should begin checking for doneness after 1 hour. Be aware it may take up to 1½ hours.)
To prepare optional gremolata garnish: Meanwhile in a bowl, combine parsley, capers, anchovies, remaining 2 Tbsps of the olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Mix well and set aside in refrigerator until fish is cooked.
To serve: Transfer fish and tomato sauce to a warm platter. Spoon gremolata evenly over top and garnish with olives.
Note: This recipe can be halved. If halving, be sure to use a small (1½- to 3-quart) slow cooker.
LOW COOKER VICHYSSOISE WITH WATERCRESS
Yields 8 servings. (See Note 2.)
1 Tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
3 Leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and coarsely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
½ tsp preferably Cracked black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
6 cups Chicken or vegetable stock
1 large Celery root (about 1 lb.), peeled and sliced (see Note 1)
2 bunches (each about 4 oz.) Watercress, tough parts of the stems removed
Sea salt, to taste, optional
½ cup Heavy or whipping cream or soy milk
½ cup Toasted walnuts, chopped
Use a large (approximately 5-quart) slow cooker. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock and stir well.
Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Stir in celery root. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours, until celery root is tender. Stir in watercress until wilted.
Working in batches, puree mixture in a food processor or blender. (You can also do this in the stoneware using an immersion blender.) Season to taste with salt, if using. Stir in cream and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours.
To serve:Ladle into bowls and garnish with toasted walnuts.
Note 1: Since celery root oxidizes quickly on contact with air, be sure to use as soon as you have peeled and chopped it, or toss it with 1 Tbsp lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
Note 2: This recipe can be halved. If halving, be sure to use a small (approximately 2-quart) slow cooker.
-Recipes from “The Healthy Slow Cooker: Second Edition.”
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook and The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.