Your slow cooker isn’t just for wintertime meat stews or root vegetables. As the weather grows milder and a new crop of vegetables pop up at the farmers’ market, switch to slow-cooked dishes with a more delicate character.
To adapt your slow cooker for the change in seasons, combine falling-off-the-bone meats with bright, tender spring vegetables and al dente grains. (If you’re interested in braising over the stove rather than using a slow cooker, see our slow cooker to Dutch oven conversion guide for more pointers.) These five vibrant dishes are easy to prepare, and, best of all, the cooking is virtually hands-off.
|Farro with Spring Vegetables
Farro, an ancient grain popular in Italian kitchens, holds its shape beautifully as it cooks, making it ideal for salads, side dishes and soups. Here, it’s tossed together with peas, leeks and asparagus in a colorful and healthy dish that’s hearty enough to stand alone but can also be served alongside grilled poultry or meat.
|Braised Salmon with Green Beans
Highly nutritious salmon becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender after a short braise in a slow cooker. The haricots verts—slender green beans—are cooked just until tender and then tossed with shallot and fresh tarragon, providing a brightly flavored counterpoint to the meaty fish.
|Braised Tarragon Chicken
This one-pot meal combines slow-cooked chicken with leeks, carrots and fresh herbs. Creamy mashed potatoes are the perfect accompaniment, soaking up the delicious braising liquid.
|Braised Lamb Chops with Artichokes
Perfect for a chilly spring night, this hearty dish features two iconic ingredients of the season: spring lamb and artichokes. Lamb shoulder chops are easy to find, easy to cook and—a boon for the hosts—inexpensive; however, you can also substitute smaller, leaner rib chops.
|Spring Veal Stew
Flavorful veal, asparagus, mushrooms and peas combine in this one-pot meal, which makes a delicious transition from hearty winter to lighter spring fare. Now is the time to use fresh peas instead of frozen — just shell them and add to the stew with the other vegetables.