I feel special affection for Google searches when a story like the one below shows up. It landed in my in-box because this author recommends my various pressure cooker cookbooks: Cooking Under Pressure, Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, The Pressured Cook, and Pressure Perfect.
It always warms my heart when someone new discovers the speedy joys of pressure cooking and helps get the word out. Below you’ll find three of my recipes for Un-Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce (3 min.), Risotto With Kale and Gremolata (4 min.), and Thai Curried Chickpeas (18 min.).
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN (1/11/11 via Austin360.com)
By Andrea Abel
The dinner-time cha-cha at our house is complicated by delicate juggling of four über-active schedules. I once believed that a slow-cooker would be the answer to frantic dinnertime pandemonium but quickly tired of the required foresight, and I resented dirtying multiple pots and pans to sauté onions or brown meat. But I still needed a dinnertime solution.
These days my knight in shining armor – or should I say my shiny amor of the night – is the pressure cooker. Everything from beans to grains, soups, curries and pastas can be ready to put on the table in short order with enough leftovers for lunch the next day or to tuck into the freezer for another time.
The idea came to me as I walked down the kitchen aisles at Bed, Bath & Beyond a few years ago and a pressure cooker winked at me and caught my eye. After reading the information on the box over and over, I wondered whether this might be the answer to dinnertime mayhem. I bought an inexpensive 5-quart model, which works just fine for most dishes. I’m trying out a friend’s 8-quart Fagor pressure cooker right now to determine if I want more capacity and am keeping my eyes out for a good sale.
This is not the scary contraption of childhood memories with the ominous hiss portending a massive kitchen explosion of baked beans on the ceiling. The major difference? The adjustable pressure valve that comes standard on newer models, says Suzanne R. Curtis, who teaches nutritional sciences at the University of Texas.
“The new pressure valves can use a variety of safety methods to release pressure and to prevent the opening of the lid before the pressure is released,” says Curtis.
But just what makes the food cook faster? A pressure cooker uses steam under pressure to cook food more quickly than conventional methods. The pressure is needed to force water to boil at a higher temperature. Without it, water will never get any hotter than 212 degrees.
Benefits extend beyond convenience. Curtis explains, “Since steam cooks more quickly than boiling water, and the new pressure cookers need less water than the older generation models, less water is good for nutrients. Many nutrients are water-soluble, therefore they will `leak’ from the food into the water.”
To get started, I equipped myself with two tomes by pressure cooker guru Lorna Sass. Sass has published at least four pressure cooking recipe books and has an affinity for vegetarian and vegan cooking as well as ample selections for the omnivore.
Each book has informative introductory chapters to equip the home cook with pressure cooker know-how: handy charts for preparing grains and beans, accessories, tips for successful recipe outcomes, basic items to stock the pantry and a glossary for some of the more exotic ingredients. Perusing the cookbook is helpful even before purchasing the pressure cooker. However, here are some hints: Look for a cooker that holds at least 6 quarts in order to prepare ample quantities, and one with a heavy metal bottom so foods don’t scorch.
Many of the recipes include steps for variations or transformations. For example, the pasta with meat sauce (all cooked in the same pot!) can morph to create North African Lamb With Pasta, Pasta With Seafood and Tomato Sauce, or a vegetarian Pasta With Mushroom Sauce. Five minutes under high pressure. Five minutes! For dinner! Add a tossed salad and a glass of wine, and presto (pun intended for those of a certain age), dinner is served in no time flat.
Armed with the basics on prepping beans and grains, I now improvise with last-minute clean-out-the-fridge-and-pantry soups and stews. I’ve even brought the pressure cooker on camping trips to whip up quick dinners on chilly nights under the stars.
I can’t count the number of times my pressure cooker has turned my guilty thoughts of greasy take-out to a slew of healthful, delicious meals that satisfy the whole family with enough panache for company.
Un-Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet-and-Sour Tomato Sauce
For the meatballs:
2 large eggs
2 lb. meatloaf mix (a prepackaged combination of ground beef, veal and pork) or all ground chuck
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup cooked rice or 1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder
Freshly ground pepper
For the sweet-and-sour tomato sauce:
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
11/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
12 cups green cabbage, quartered, cored and sliced crosswise
28 oz. can peeled plum (or diced) tomatoes (with liquid)
3/4 tsp. caraway seeds
1/3 cup raisins
1 tsp. dried dill
1 to 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 3 tsp. honey or sugar (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare the meatballs: Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the remaining meatball ingredients and mix well with your hands. Shape into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter.
In a 6-quart or larger cooker, blend the water, vinegar and salt. Add the onions and half the cabbage. Distribute half the meatballs on top. Add remaining cabbage and meatballs. Pour the tomatoes over the meatballs, crushing tomatoes in your hand as you empty the can. Do not stir after adding the tomatoes. Sprinkle the caraway seeds and raisins on top.
Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. (It will take longer than usual because the cooker is so full.) Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Reduce the pressure by setting the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
Cut a meatball in half to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If the meatballs require more cooking, cover the pot and simmer until they are done. Season the mixture by gently stirring in the dill and just enough of the lemon juice and honey (if needed) to create a good sweet-sour balance. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
• Use 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill instead of dried.
• Garnish each portion with a dollop of sour cream.
Pressure points: If using a 4-quart cooker, reduce cabbage to about 4 cups chopped.
– From `Pressure Perfect’ by Lorna Sass
Risotto With Kale and Gremolata
4 minutes high pressure, 4 to 5 minutes additional cooking
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a main dish
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 to 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped garlic
1 cup finely chopped onions
11/2 cups Arborio rice
31/4 to 41/2 cups vegetable stock
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
3 cups tightly packed, finely chopped uncooked kale leaves, stems removed (about 1/4 pound)
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
Heat the oil in the cooker. Cook the garlic over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown, then immediately add the onions and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the oil, then add 31/2 cups of the vegetable stock (stand back to avoid spattering oil) and the salt.
Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Reduce the pressure with a quick-release method (by setting the cooker under cold running water). Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape.
Stir in the kale and continue to cook uncovered, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the kale is done and the rice is tender but still chewy, 4 to 5 minutes. If the risotto isn’t creamy, stir in a bit more stock as the kale cooks.
Just before serving, stir in the lemon peel, parsley and pepper. If using Parmesan cheese, pass it in a bowl on the side. If using lemon juice, stir in just enough to punch up the flavors. Serve immediately in shallow soup bowls.
– From `Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure’ by Lorna Sass
Thai Curried Chickpeas
18 minutes high pressure
Serves 4 to 6
11/2 cups dried chickpeas, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight in ample water to cover or speed-soaked (see note below)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. mild curry powder
3 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, including liquid
1 5-oz. package fresh baby spinach
2 Tbsp. tamari soy sauce or to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In the cooker, heat oil over medium heat. Add curry and briefly sauté for a few seconds until aromatic. Add the chickpeas, coconut milk, water, garlic, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Lock lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Allow the pressure to come down naturally or use a quick-release method (by setting the cooker under cold running water).
Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape. If the chickpeas are not tender, either return to high pressure for a few more minutes or replace (but do not lock) the lid and simmer until the chickpeas are done.
Add the soy sauce to taste as you break up the sweet potatoes and stir to create a thick sauce. Stir in the spinach and simmer uncovered for 1 minute. Top with minced cilantro and basil. Serve over white or brown rice.
Speed-soaking method: I often forget to soak the beans in advance. Here is Sass’ remedy.
Use 3 cups water for first cup of dried beans and 2 cups water per additional cup of beans. Place beans and water in cooker. For jiggle-top cookers, add 1 tablespoon oil per cup of dried beans. Lock lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat.
For small beans (such as navy or adzuki), turn off heat as soon as high pressure is reached. Allow pressure to come down naturally for 10 minutes. Release remaining pressure by running pot with lid locked in place under cold water.
For medium beans (such as red kidney or pinto), cook for 1 minute under high pressure, turn off heat and allow pressure to come down naturally for 10-15 minutes.
For very large beans (such as chickpea), cook for 2-3 minutes under high pressure, turn off heat and allow pressure to come down naturally for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat if beans are still hard. They should not be completely cooked, but should no longer have an opaque center when sliced in half.
Be sure to discard the soaking water and use fresh water or stock for all recipes.
– Adapted by Andrea Abel from `Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure’ by Lorna Sass