Cooking Under Pressure

How could I resist? Um-ba-ba-bet!

Anyway, now that I’ve given you a little ear worm for the day, let’s talk pressure cookers. Ruth should chime in here, because she’s used them forever, but I am a (so to speak) recent convert. A year or so ago, I contemplated buying a pressure cooker. I was trying to move our dinners to more vegetarian options: healthy for us, healthy for the planet, easier to have a recipe repertoire for guests who are vegetarian or kosher, and so on.

Did I hear you say tofu? Ithaca introduced me to tofu about 25 years ago. I buy it about every three months, and then throw it away when the expiration date is passed. Seriously. Occasionally, I manage to stir fry it, but the results are never thrilling. I learned that if I make a vegetarian lasagne, I can substitute some soft tofu for part of the ricotta, to boost protein and lower fat. But having grown up eating Italian food (really good Italian food), that sort of flimflam is a bit sacrilegious. Anyway, I’ve never found a tofu recipe that I actually liked, so that’s out.

That meant cooking beans. And I do like them: garbanzos, lentils, pintos… I have seriously loved lentil soup since childhood. lentilsBut for other beans, the overnight soaking was a problem. I do not think that far ahead. In fact, I usually plan dinner starting about 4:45. On a good day. ceciAnd no, I am not buying canned beans. They don’t taste as good, and the can linings usually have BPA, so no thanks. Escaping cholesterol in order to ingest endocrine disrupters was not a good choice.

A pressure cooker seemed like a good idea–everything cooks faster! But that meant learning a whole new way of cooking, and I wasn’t sure which features to look for: stovetop or electric? Nonstick? Were they safe? I remembered stories of the lids coming off and dinner on the ceiling.

Little did I know that Ruth was using for nearly every dinner we ate at her house. I could have asked her. Ah well!

Fast forward to a few months ago. A friend buys the Aldi version Ruth mentions in her post, and cooks beans from dry to done in front of me IN 12 MINUTES. She starts gifting me hummus made by cooking the garbanzos in her pressure cooker. OK, yum. But she says she’ll probably get a second one: the Aldi version is electric, with a timer. This is both good and bad. She can set it and forget it, and come back to cooked beans. But she can’t use it to sear anything, or soften veggies in olive oil for soup, and so on.

I like making soup. And I hate making extra clean up.

So after a talk with Ruth, the pressure cooker queen, I go all the way to the other extreme from the Aldi version and buy this.



Kuhn Rikon. Lots of gleaming stainless and cutting edge Swiss engineering. Let’s cook!

One thing I love and never cook is risotto. Too fussy, takes too much time. But the pressure cooker promised risotto cooked in 8 minutes. Hm. Let’s try. Here’s my recipe, slightly edited from the Kuhn Rikon recipe book that came with the pressure cooker.

So–sauté  1 cup of arborio rice in olive oil until it turns golden. Add about a cup of chopped mushrooms, one finely chopped onion, a handful of dried tomatoes, a big splash of white wine,  a grind of black pepper and some rosemary and basil. Hold off on the salt, because there’s a lot of parm going in at the end.risotto

Let it simmer for a minute, then add 2 cups of vegetable stock. When it comes to a boil, close it up, let the pressure come up, and cook for about 7 minutes. Use the cold water release method to open it. When you do, the mixture will still be very loose. Add about 1/4 cup of parmesan (I’m tempted, à la Ina Garten, to say “a good parmesan“), and stir. It will firm up.

RisottoSprinkle with some flat leaf Italian parsley, shave a bit of (good!) parm on top, and there you are! Add a green salad, and it’s wonderful light supper.



3 thoughts on “Cooking Under Pressure

  1. Lesli, I know what you mean about the tofu. I’ve done that so many times. But I also think the expiration date is rather forgiving. I have a way to cook it that even non-tofu eaters can tolerate. Cut firm tofu up into small pieces and stir fry in lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, whatever, until it is brown all around, then add whatever veggies you want to add to it. I usually press the tofu first, but I think it works fine without.Tofu absorbs the flavors it’s cooked in.
    Soft tofu can also be pureed to use in pumpkin pie.

    Hearing both you and Ruth testify for pressure cookers I might succumb. But I remember my mother’s when i was a kid. It was scary and then she heard about them exploding and she stopped using it. We used it for the dog’s food dish.

  2. That’s why I hesitated! But you really can make chicken soup from scratch in half an hour’s cooking time. I did it the other night. I made steal cut oats this morning in 8 minutes. And lamb shanks in 40 minutes. And bean soup in under 15. They have all kinds of safety devices these days, so they are safe. You’d think I was getting a kick back on this… No. I promise. We are not a monetized blog. 🙂

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