Slow Cooker Vegetable, Farro & White Bean Stew [Recipe]

The photo of the stew below might look familiar to you. If you've been to my website before you've probably seen it. It's one of the beautiful photos taken by my friend Caroline of CY-iwander that now resides on my homepage. It was taken a couple of years ago when we did a little photo shoot together.  I figured it was finally time to share this fantastic recipe on my blog!

It's perfect for these cold days. It's hearty and warming, with a nice complexity of flavour. This is a slow cooker recipe and, although may seem fancy based on the ingredient list, it's quite easy to make!  I wish I could take credit for this delicious creation, but I can't. It was actual developed by restaurateur and chef, Grant Achatz. I have made a few adjustments and omissions to his original recipe to make it more "user friendly" and have also added some white beans for extra protein and satiety. 

You'll see that there are a few not-so-standard- yet readily available - ingredients that you may have seen at the grocery store, but have never incorporated into your cooking.  Farro is one of them.  It's an ancient grain that has been making a bit of a comeback in recent years. It's an excellent source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron.  It has a chewy texture and mild taste. While it does contain gluten, it has lower amounts than wheat.  If you've been wanting to try it out, this recipe will not disappoint!  You should be able to find farro at most larger grocery stores (among the grains or in the health food section), health food stores, or Middle Eastern grocers.  You may not have tried cooking with fennel, figs, or artichokes before either, but this recipe will give you the opportunity to do so!

VEGETABLE, FARRO & WHITE BEAN STEW

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 rosemary sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 5 oregano sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5 thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 small artichokes or 14 oz can of water packed artichokes, drained
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 14 oz can, white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 heads of garlic, 1/4 inch cut off the tops
  • 1 lemon, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant, cut into 6 wedges
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs or dried figs of your choice (5 ounces), stemmed
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 6 wedges
  • 1/2 pound large cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Directions:

If using fresh herbs: tie the rosemary, oregano and thyme sprigs into a bundle using kitchen twine. If using fresh artichoke: use a serrated knife to cut off the top third of the artichokes. Snap off the small leaves from around the artichoke stem. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the hairy chokes and discard them.

Turn your slow cooker to high and set the timer for 6 hours. Starting at the crushed red pepper flakes, add all of the ingredient up to and including the cherry tomatoes. Then add the herb bundle or the dried herbs. Spread the ingredients in even layers. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 4 hours.

Stir the stew gently and add the zucchini ensuring to submerge them in the liquid. Cover and cook for 2 hours longer. 

About 10 minutes before serving, stir in the kale to allow it to wilt and soften.  Discard the herb bundle (if you were using it) and season the stew with salt. Serve immediately garnished with green onions.

Grant Achatz's original recipe can be found on Food & Wine.
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