So we had a cold day here and I happened to look at the weather forecast in time, and I had a pound of black beans on hand, so I decided to make black bean soup. I soaked the beans for approximately 24 hours (draining the bean soaking liquid into my garden) and then added the soaked beans to the pressure cooker, added water and spices to the level of the beans, which made it just to the halfway mark on my 4-quart Presto pressure cooker, and put it on the induction burner to heat at 212 degrees. After four minutes it was simmering, so I increased the heat to 284 degrees and put on the lid. It took about seven minutes to come up to pressure, then I reduced the heat to 248 degrees and set the timer for four minutes.
And here's the result:
Yep, perfectly cooked, tender beans. I have the feeling I'm going to be doing a lot more of this this winter!
So those of you who have been following my adventures in pressure cooking know that I have tried pasta in sauce to great effect. Well, last week I acquired an induction burner, so you know I had to try this out!
First off, let me say that the dish turned out exactly as I intended. I had read about pressure cookers and induction burners earlier, so I chopped mushrooms and opened the jar of sauce (okay, I was in a hurry to get dinner done). I added oil and turned the burner on. In 15 seconds the oil was hot, and I sauteed the mushrooms. That took about a minute.
Then I turned off the burner to add sauce, pasta, water, and wine. I stirred the pasta for a bit until it was all coated with the sauce, then turned the burner on to 248 degrees F and let it go until the sauce was bubbling, stirring all the while. When the sauce started to simmer (about a minute) I popped on the lid and turned the burner to 284F. The pot took about four minutes to come up to pressure, and then I turned off the burner and waited.
At the end I stirred in some leftover kale salad and here is the result:
Well, it was good enough that I'm eating the leftovers for breakfast!
So, a point: the food gets hot really fast, so have your prep all done first. If you don't, be prepared to turn off the burner and wait. I always used the heating the pot time to do my prep, but there isn't any heating the pot time.
Also, I just used the minimum heat necessary to get the pressure. Anything more is overkill. Many of us start the pan off screaming hot and then turn down the heat. Instead, set the temperature on your induction burner to just enough to bring the pot to pressure. After all, the food needs time to cook; especially with foods that have to absorb liquid, give it that little extra time.
It's Lent, which means no meat or dairy, which means pasta, among other things. And once I experimented with cooking pasta in its sauce, and then I got a pressure cooker, well, you can guess the next step: pressure cooker pasta in sauce.
Sorry, I was hungry and forgot to take pictures. Next time.
First off: yes, it works. I used Kroger whole grain pasta; a can of diced tomatoes; some seasonings; a little wine (because it was a weekend, and I'm trying to use up the last of a box); and a little water.
Of course I had made a few attempts already that had gone wrong, so here's what worked. In the stovetop, I added pasta, diced tomatoes, seasonings (in that order) and then filled up the cooker with wine and water until the level of the liquid was almost to the top of the pasta.
I turned on the electric burner, set the cooker on it, and let the liquid reach a fast simmer, stirring all the while. When the liquid reached a fast simmer, I put on the lid. Once the cooker had reached full pressure I let it go about a minute and turned off the heat and walked away, leaving the cooker on the burner.
When the lid unlocked, I had perfectly-cooked pasta in sauce. Total burner time: 6 minutes.
This may not seem like much of a big deal, but with summer coming, you don't want to heat up the house, so instead of waiting for a pot of water to boil, and then cooking pasta for another 8 minutes, and cooking sauce in a separate pan, you'll be reducing your cooling bills significantly. And while this method may not be any faster (you still need the cool-down time), it's a lot less hands-on.
Okay, I think I've nailed it. It took me three tries to get the recipe perfect but I'm thrilled.
Slice small potatoes in half lengthways (for maximum surface area). Heat a little olive oil to shimmering in the pressure cooker and add garlic and black pepper. Place potatoes cut side down and brown.
When browned, flip potatoes over (skin side down). Add rosemary or italian seasoning, and for one pound of potatoes, a half cup of water. Put the lid on the pressure cooker.
Wait until the rocker begins to rock, then turn heat down until the rocker slows. Set your kitchen timer for three minutes.
When timer dings, remove pot from heat and release pressure. Place potatoes in serving dish and salt to taste.
The mouth-watering result:
Sorry for the weird bluish tint—there's something weird going on with my cell phone camera. As you can see, these came out beautifully!
I finally got brave enough to order and use this pressure cooker from Presto. Following the recommendations from America's Test Kitchen, I got a stovetop model in stainless steel (for the far-off day when I get an induction cooktop).
So far, I've cooked pasta, potatoes, and lentils in the cooker. With those experiments, I'm ready for a few recommendations.
Don't accidentally knock off that little part in the center unless you want steam shooting up 8 feet in the air.
If you're using a pressure cooker to save energy or time, it's best used for things that take a long cooking time rather than a shorter cooking time. There may be other reasons to cook Brussels sprouts in a pressure cooker, but you won't save time. Think pot roasts, stews, soups, stocks, etc.
Experiment with small amounts of food and short cooking times first.
Read a bunch of blogs and other people's advice, but remember, Your Mileage May Vary.
Read the instruction book.
Read the instruction book. (This bears repeating.)
Don't believe everything you read.
If you want pasta in the pressure cooker, you need to put in much less liquid than you would for cooking pasta in sauce, because, remember, almost all the liquid gets retained and goes into the pasta. You'll still probably need to drain some out.
Potatoes came out great. I used potatoes that were 1-2 inches in diameter, cooked perfectly in eight minutes (but there was a little too much liquid left in the pressure cooker at halfway up the potatoes, as originally advised. I tried browning the potatoes in a little olive oil first; I don't think I let them brown long enough the first time. There's a little bit of discoloration on the bottom of the pressure cooker from that, but hey, in my kitchen, stuff gets used.
I let lentils cool naturally and I think they were well beyond overcooked at 3 minutes. Also they were a little watery, but then I used soaked lentils instead of bone-dry ones.
I'll keep everyone updated as I try more things after the holidays!
Being that I'm always busy, I'm always looking for ways to make my life easier. And I've certainly found the solution to easier pasta!
Great cooks will have you boil the pasta in several quarts of water, reserve a cup of the pasta liquid, drain the pasta, add the sauce, add the reserved pasta liquid, and then serve. But, emboldened by my previous experiments with cooking pasta in sauce, I decided that all of that was too much work! Instead, try this method:
Heat the sauce to just below an energetic simmer. Add the pasta, and enough warm water to within an inch of the pasta (for al dente), or level or slightly above the level of the pasta for softer pasta. Stir the pasta several times during the first few minutes. If the sauce/water level is below the pasta, cover. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and give it maybe a minute or two longer than you would traditionally boil the pasta. Test, then remove the pot from heat and let sit a few minutes.
The result? A one-pot pasta dish, with the silky quality of the starch reserved, and only one dish to clean. It works with tomato sauces, pumpkin sauces, even with cheap boxed macaroni and cheese. And you don't have to attend it; just set the timer and walk away. Magic!
I was never much into smoothies, but I had a friend who was recovering from an accident stay with me, and she requested smoothies, so I started making them. That's when I discovered that I had the perfect solution to all those leftover bits of stuff from other recipes, and now smoothies are part of my regular routine. In addition to being filling, these breakfast shakes are perfect for cleaning out your pantry or refrigerator in a hurry! Those leftovers that are too small to do anything with make the greatest ingredients for smoothies.
What Can Go Into a Smoothie?
You'd be amazed!
At first, I started with the usual suspects: frozen fruit, yoghurt, a little milk, and maybe some sweetener if necessary. But then Thanksgiving came around, and I had leftover cranberry sauce, and voilà, my journey had begun. I dumped the cranberry sauce into the blender, along with my other smoothie ingredients, and it tasted great. So then I began experimenting with everything else in the fridge and the pantry.
That jar of wheat germ I had sitting around since 2005? Put some in a jar, pour in a little leftover coffee, and left it to soak overnight to soften the wheat germ. Great! A couple of spoons of leftover cottage cheese? Mix it with some peaches and cinnamon, and it was astonishingly good. Tofu? Into the blender with some leftover pumpkin puree and spices, a little yogurt, and a spoonful of agave syrup. Fantastic!
The Next Step
So now that I had my pantry starting to clear, I took a look at what was left, and thought hard about all the ingredients I had. I had already made the transition from sweet French toast to savory French toast, and from sweet cheesecake to savory cheesecake, and from sweet ice cream to savory ice cream, so clearly the next step was to take on savory smoothies.
Into my blender went leftover lasagna, a single bite of bacon, and a few spoons full of vegetables, along with some milk and yogurt to thin it out. I added a few fresh herbs from the garden, and the result was genius. Since then, my smoothies have become a part of my everyday routine, and it's easy to change them up, simply depending on whatever I have left over in the fridge or the pantry.
Yes, savory smoothies. It's really not that weird of an idea. If you need help wrapping your head around it, think of it as soup. Now think of it as cold soup. There, isn't that better? If not, well, you can always heat it up and serve it!