Often the best soups in my kitchen result from adding extra liquid -- stock or broth, juice, or water -- to stews or pasta dishes. Culinary magic works the other way around, too, and this smoky turkey, black bean and corn chili proves that a great soup can morph into an equally great something else. Use a bit of tough love and withhold some of the liquid in this recipe for chipotle turkey, black bean and corn soup, and watch a glorious chili emerge from the pot. Substitute freely: red beans for black, ground chicken (or beef) for turkey, fresh corn or tomato in season. The mild green chile peppers plus green Tabasco (also mild), with a hint of chipotle, add up to warmth rather than searing heat, and if you like your chili on the sweet side, squirt some agave nectar into the pot at the end.
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While it's true that Rival invented the Crock-Pot®, back in 1971, the company didn't invent slow cooking. Clay pots, tagines and Dutch ovens all predate the electric slow cooker. This chicken and white bean stew springs from the French farmhouse tradition of slow cooking in a pot set into the fireplace. Today, thanks to an inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment (the slow cooker I used for this recipe cost less than $20), I can make stew without hauling in wood, building a fire, raking the embers, and lugging a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven from the kitchen to set into the hearth. Lemon and garlic create the flavor base for this healthy, naturally gluten-free stew, which, like most stews, tastes even better the second day.
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When the aroma of cinnamon fills the house, I follow my nose to the kitchen, expecting to discover muffins or baked apples in the oven. Sometimes, the intoxicating smell of cinnamon comes from something even better: a savory, Moroccan-inspired vegan butternut squash and chickpea stew in a tomato sauce infused with cinnamon and coriander. A hint of smoky-hot harissa, the assertive North African pepper paste, balances the sweetness of the squash, and seems absolutely necessary here. (Kathy, my spicy-food-averse cooking assistant, loved the gentle heat, so you know it's not too spicy.) Make this stew up to three days ahead, or freeze it; like most stews, it's even better on the second day. Serve over couscous or rice, as the centerpiece of a vegan meal, or as a side dish with grilled lamb or fish.
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"Exact proportions aren't terribly important," Julia Child used to say about stews and soups, as she taught us to relax and have fun with serious cooking. Nowhere does that concept apply more than to this slow cooker ratatouille (pronounced rat ah TOO eee), a classic French vegetable stew that uses everything I can find in my garden or at our local farmers' markets right now: eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes and thyme. If you have more of one thing than another, that's fine. Want to add some olives? Fine. Have white mushrooms instead of portobellos? Fine. Stick in a small sprig of rosemary? Fine. Best of all, ratatouille works as a pasta sauce, an omelet filling, a rice topper, a side dish for grilled fish or chicken, a sandwich stuffer... well, you get the idea. It's versatile, healthy and vegan, and the slow cooker makes it oh-so-easy. I like my ratatouille vegetables cut into big chunks, and they'll hold up much better in the slow cooker if you go big, too.
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