Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Veggie Queen Cooks Under Pressure on the East Coast

Last week I taught pressure cooking at Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA and also at Warren Kitchen and Cutlery in Rhinebeck, New York. Both classes were well received.

I made some amazing Moroccan Chickpeas in Rhinebeck with could become a staple dish for me, along with the quinoa pilaf that I have demonstrated probably 100 times (and this not likely an exaggeration). I also made a 2-minute Vegetable Melange which included fennel which is not usually part of my repertoire (except for occasionally in my roasted vegetables). It turned out perfectly, as I predicted.

I tell everyone to be sure that they use the minimum amount of liquid that the manufacturer recommends, unless they experiment and find out that they can use less which is often the case with the new, spring-valve pressure cookers. I use just enough to bring the cooker up to pressure.

Now, a good number more vegetarians and vegans attending Vegetarian Summerfest are getting on the PC bandwagon, and some of the staff at Warren Kitchen and Cutlery know more about the benefits of pressure cooking. Thanks to those who participated, and may you spread the PC word.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fagor New 3-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Word on the street, or at least on the Yahoo Pressure Cooking forum is that the new Fagor 3-in-1 cooker is going to be released soon. Truth is, I have had one to try out for at least a few weeks. Unfortunately, I have been too busy to actually use it. But when I saw the words flying on the page, I decided that it was time to get it out and use it.

I am not a big fan of electric pressure cookers but have only tried one before. I own it and ended up using it more as a heat source at cooking demonstrations instead of actually cooking in it. It's an older model that doesn't have a quick release function and it had a mediocre timer. It was NOT digital, as the new ones are. I hope going digital helps somewhat with the timing. This one also has a quick-release feature.

I've made rice for the first time in it. My observations:
It took almost 5 minutes to get to pressure. Cooking time for rice is set at 6 minutes. You then quick-release the pressure.
Time to check out my 4 quart Fagor Duo to see how it performs. A bit too much basmati rice for me but it's just for testing. My son really likes it so he'll be the beneficiary.
Here are the stats for the Duo 4-quart:
Took 1 minute 20 seconds to come to pressure. 3 minutes at pressure and 5 minutes natural pressure release.
The rice seems virtually the same and the rice in the stove-top cooker is ready in less time.
First experiment down. Stove top pressure cooker triumphs over electric. The pluses for the 3-in-1 -- the removable insert is easy to clean. For some, the fact that it's nonstick teflon will be a plus. I prefer the stainless steel myself.
Until I adjust to using the 3-in-1, I am likely to continue most of my cooking on the stove. But it will be good for testing recipes for my book The Veggie Queen Goes Green: Pressure Cooking Basics.
Watch for more on the 3-in-1 trials, triumphs and failures.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Save Money with Your Pressure Cooker and Vegan Cooking

Having just paid $4.99 per gallon for diesel for my car, I am looking for ways to save money. Luckily I am already happily ensconced in pressure cooking.

I think that most people don't realize the many ways that the sky-rocketing fuel costs are going to impact them. It is going to mean rising food costs. So, to save money, you may have to go with my eating beans and grains once a week (or more) plan.

I'd like to see everyone adopt vegetarian or, even better, vegan eating at least once a week. OK. This may mean eating rice and beans but they don't have to be ordinary rice and beans.

Did you know that it only takes about 5 minutes at pressure to cook pinto or black beans (if they aren't really old)? More recently harvested beans cook more quickly but if you don't have the luxury of buying beans from a local farm or heirloom bean grower such as Rancho Gordo or Tierra Vegetables, you won't likely know the age of your beans.

Last week I demonstrated how to prepare red rice and beans (instead of red beans and rice) in the pressure cooker. The rice (which is whole grain) took 9 minutes at pressure and the beans took 4 minutes at pressure. You can season either any way that you like.

I also made a quick vegetable dish that included scarlet turnips, watermelon daikon, spring onion, garlic and yellow squash which took just one minute at pressure.

My complete meal hardly used any fuel at all, except for the cost of getting the vegetables. But these days I am on my bicycle so the energy that I burn is my own, therefore I am using my fuel well.

I encourage you to do the same -- get a pressure cooker, play with it and enjoy many meat-free days, saving time, money, energy and maybe even your health. And if you feel like it, ride your bicycle.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Acutely Aware of Alliums and other A Vegetables

It's spring and that means a new beginning. And the beginning of the alphabet starts with the letter A. Perhaps that's why this is the season for alliums, artichokes and asparagus. Of course, none of the alliums start with the letter A but it's fun to have some alliteration here.
My market finds this morning included many A veggies including spring onions, green garlic (mostly adolescent but more about that later), garlic scapes, uncured shallots, chives (all alliums) and artichokes.

Currently I am cooking my small artichokes in the pressure cooker. I added a bit of olive oil to the cooker and put in a minced cured garlic clove (first of the season but not local to me), a minced stalk of green garlic, salt, pepper and vegetable broth. The artichokes were sliced in half. After 9 minutes they were tender and delicious and no chokes but just a few tough leaves. I'll do them again if I can get them.

But the green garlic and garlic scapes (the top flowering part of the garlic) are done. And we will move past the A vegetables and get to the rest, including the Zs for zucchini. Oh, I can't wait because that means that tomatoes will also be on their way.