Braised Beets with Arugula and Ricotta Salata in a Slow Cooker

I love beets, but heating up the oven in the summer to roast them doesn’t make me happy. Braising them in a slow cooker is shear genius. Thanks Brigit!

Reprinted with permission from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker.

Photograph by Kate Sears

; recipe by Brigit Binns. Copyright 2010 by Weldon Owen, Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 pounds (1.5 kg) orange, yellow or red beets, peeled and sliced 1/3 inch (9 mm) thick
4 cups (4 oz/125 g) baby arugula
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) Orange Vinaigrette (see below)
1 1/4 pounds (125 g) ricotta salata cheese

Makes six servings.

In a slow cooker, stir together the orange zest and juice, vinegar, thyme sprigs, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper. Add the beets and stir to coat them with the liquid. Cover and cook on the low setting for four hours, stirring once or twice, if possible, to redistribute the liquid. The beets should be tender, but not falling apart.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beets to a serving platter. Discard the braising liquid. In a bowl, combine the arugula and shallot and toss with enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. Arrange the arugula over the beets. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the ricotta salata over the top. Serve at once.

Orange Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in the oil until emulsified.

Makes about 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml).

“The New Slow Cooker” is currently available in Williams-Sonoma stores and online at

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Photograph by Kate Sears

I think I’m like most people and consider the slow cooker strictly a winter appliance. It’s for making piping-hot casseroles and hearty stews. It is kept neatly stored all summer. There is no room for it on the counter with all of the bags of fresh produce we lug home.

Then something happened that changed my perspective on slow cookers. That something was “The New Slow Cooker” by Brigit Binns. We are lucky to have Brigit living among us in the Hudson Valley. She is an awesome cook and prolific cookbook writer — a marvelous combination. Not only does she know her way around the kitchen, she shares her immense culinary knowledge and spot-on recipes.

It’s always good to know someone who is working on a cookbook. There’s lots of testing and, more importantly, eating involved. Brigit was recently working on a new one. Being good eaters, my husband and I happily volunteered to come over and do our part. We are always helpful that way.

On one such visit, I spied a brand-spanking-new cookbook, “The New Slow Cooker.” These aren’t your grandma’s crock pot recipes. The eye-candy photos are inspiring, as are all the dishes that scream summer. Yes, summer dishes in a slow cooker! I went home, cleared some counter space and let my slow cooker see the summer sun.

Williams-Sonoma was nice enough to let me reprint a couple of my favorite recipes from Brigit’s book.

“The New Slow Cooker” is currently available in Williams-Sonoma stores and online at

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

Reprinted with permission from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker.
Photograph by Kate Sears; recipe by Brigit Binns. Copyright 2010 by Weldon Owen Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

1 tablespoon bacon drippings or canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, or to taste
5 pounds (2.5 kg) baby back ribs

Apple-Fennel Slaw for serving (see below; optional)

Makes six servings.

To make the barbecue sauce, in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the bacon drippings. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, wine, lemon zest and juice, brown sugar, mustard, chile powder, cumin, celery salt, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook very gently, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until slightly thickened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the Tabasco and taste for seasoning. Use right away, or preferably let cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

Preheat the broiler. Trim the membrane from the back of each rack, then cut into individual ribs. Arrange the ribs on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the ribs to a slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and turn the ribs to coat evenly. Cover and cook on the low setting for five to six hours. The ribs should be very tender.

Using a slotted spatula, transfer the ribs to a large platter and keep warm. Pour the sauce into a small saucepan, let stand for few minutes and skim away the fat from the sauce with a large spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly, three to four minutes.

Arrange the ribs on warm individual plates and drizzle with some of the reduced sauce. If using, mound the slaw alongside the ribs. Serve at once.

Apple-Fennel Slaw

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) each fresh lime juice, sour cream and mayonnaise; 1/2 teaspoon each salt and chile powder, preferably chipotle; 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar; and 3 1/4 cups (3 1/4 oz/20 g) fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped. Add 2 large fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise; and 2 small tart red or green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced. Toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Molten Chocolate Cake in a Slow Cooker

chCakeCrockThis cake is very similar to a chocolate soufflé, only it’s made in a slow cooker! If your slow cooker is hard to clean, you may want to cook this in an oven-proof container (just make sure it fits before hand).

Molten Chocolate Cake is something I will make again, and again. I should just be sure to make it when we have guests over so my husband and I don’t eat the whole thing ourselves. Oops.


1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons butter
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (or 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup hot water


  • Grease the inside of a 2.5- to 5-quart slow cooker with butter (or oil).
  • Mix together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate. Using a microwave, heat for 30 seconds at a time or use a double boiler to melt chocolate. Once melted, mix well.
  • To the butter/chocolate mixture, add brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, milk and egg.
  • Add mixture to the flour and combine until well mixed.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared slow cooker. Make sure to spread it evenly.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, 1/3 cup of cocoa and hot water. Mix until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour the mixture over the batter in the slow cooker. This is the good gooey part.
  • Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours (if you are using a smaller cooker, the time will be closer to 2 hours).
  • It will be done when the cake starts to pull away from the sides. The cake should be moist, with pockets of molten chocolate (yum).
  • When it’s done, turn off the power and remove the lid. Let it cool for 15 minutes. Scoop out and serve it in bowls.

It is best served warm. Serves six to eight.

Whole Wheat Bread in a Slow Cooker

My sister gave me a slow cooker (aka crock pot) a couple of years ago. She uses hers all the time. She is a very organized person and will whip something up before she heads to work and come home to a ready-to-go one-dish dinner. I’m not that organized in the morning and since we don’t have the counter space, mine is stored in the back of a cabinet and I often forget about it. This week, I pulled it out.

I have made various soups and casserole-type dishes in mine, but I wanted something new. While searching for recipes, I came across a couple things that I would have never thought you could make in a slow cooker — bread and cakes. How cool is that?

I make bread all of the time and I was excited to see how fast and simple the slow-cooker bread was. It didn’t have the delicious crust that I get with my standard recipe, but it is great for sandwich bread.

If you want to see all of the crazy things you can cook in your slow cooker, check out A Year of Slow Cooking. Good stuff.

The biggest challenge is finding an oven-proof dish that fits in your slow cooker.

1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 whole egg
1/4 cup millet
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour


  • Grease a deep ovenproof dish (I used a 1.5 quart Corningware dish). Make sure it fits in your slow cooker.
  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; mix and let sit for five minutes.
  • Add milk, oats, salt, oil, honey, egg and ground flax seeds. Mix well.
  • Add flour and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  •  Turn dough into the prepared oven-proof dish.
  • In bottom of the slow cooker, place 1/2 cup of water and a trivet or something to elevate the dish off the bottom of the cooker.
  • Place dish on the trivet; set a piece of oiled foil over the dough. From what I can tell, the foil is to keep the condensation from making the top soggy.
  • Cover and bake on high for 3 hours.
  • Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Shared in Whole Foods for the Holidays.