I had the most enlightening day at work last week. I don’t think I’ve mentioned my “day job” on this blog before now. For almost a year, I have been employed as a Nutrition Consultant at a non-profit agency that serves at-risk children and their families.
The majority of my colleagues are Family Educators, many of which are first generation immigrants. These Family Educators serve as advocates for their assigned families, offering education and support, and often serve as translators.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to sit down with several of my colleagues and ask them about some commonly consumed foods from their culture, so that I could incorporate these foods into a nutrition assessment tool I am developing.
I spoke with individuals from Nepal, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Congo and Somalia to get a sense of foods less familiar to me. As I chatted with each one, their eyes lit up when speaking of these foods. Each with their beautiful thick accents, they recited several usual foods from their lands, many of which were quite unusual to me.
Through this experience, it dawned on me…although twenty-seven different languages are spoken where I work, there is one common language that we all speak: the language of food. Although our foods might differ, we share a commonality. We share a relationship with food, and we each have memories and feelings that certain foods conjure up of our childhood, our family, our LIVES.
So in thinking of my enlightening experience, I bring you this Slow Cooker Cannellini Bean and Farro Stew, with flavors from many lands. The stew is served with Chermoula Sauce, an herbaceous North African sauce often served with seafood. It was a new sauce to me, but reminds me of an Argentinian chimichurri, or perhaps an Italian pesto, or French pistou sauce.
Don’t let the long ingredient list for this sauce scare you off. The Chermoula is completely necessary in transforming this recipe from an ordinary healthy stew into a memorable meal!
Slow Cooker Cannelini Bean and Farro Stew with Chermoula Sauce
(recipe inspiration from the "Slow Cooker to the Rescue" article in Dec '13 Cooking Light Magazine, a White Bean & Farro Soup in BHG Sept '13, and the lovely Family Educators with which I work)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup zucchini, chopped (we used frozen, shredded from Sparks Farm, Warrenton, MO)
- 1 cup farro (or barley, wheat berries, brown rice)
- 4 cups vegetable stock (del Carmen Foods)
- 1 can (14 oz) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 cloves fresh garlic
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp. coriander seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.
- Transfer to crock pot; add spinach, zucchini, farro, veg stock and beans. Turn on low and cook for 4-6 hours.
- Combine parsley, cilantro, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, oil and coriander in food processor.
- Pulse until mixture becomes a smooth sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.