Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 The Year of the Pressure Cooker Declares Lorna Sass

My friend, colleague and pressure cooking mentor, Lorna Sass, the Queen of pressure cooking, shared the following blog post for me to share with you. I hope that you will agree that the time has come for the pressure cooker to make its comeback. As I told Lorna, sometimes it takes 20 years for something to become an "overnight" success. This year Lorna has a newly revised and updated version of her seminal book, Cooking Under Pressure. Please read on for what Lorna has to say...

For the Chinese, February 14 will begin the Year of the Tiger. For Mac users, it’s the Year of the Snow Leopard. For me, it’s the Year of the Pressure Cooker.

Just when I was about to give up hope that American cooks would ever give up their paranoia about the dangers of pressure cooking, some very good things began to happen.

Carolyn Russock pressure-cooked her way through the 20th anniversary edition of COOKING UNDER PRESSURE and wrote rave reviews of the 30-minute chicken broth and French-style beef stew, the 4-minute risotto, and the ultra-fast baked beans in a 5-day series for the very popular foodie blog,
Serious Eats. Dozens of comments document the growing number of the people who are pressure cooking on a daily basis and understand that today’s cookers are 100% safe.

The same week, Paula Crossfield wrote
an enthusiastic column for popular online blog, Bitten about how she became a pressure cooker convert. Again lots of enthusiastic cooks wrote in to sing their praises of pressure cooking.

An NPR piece on pressure cooking is soon to hit the national airwaves, and a few other major voices are about to get the word out that pressure cooking is not only safe, but terrific for what I call the four P’s: planet, palate, person, and purse.

Great for the planet because it’s so fuel efficient.

Great for the palate because the pressure-cooker mingles flavors quickly, giving food the soul-satisfying appeal of a long-cooked meal.

Great for the person because even the hurried or impatient cook can prepare healthy food in a flash.

Great for the purse because the pressure cooker is ace at tenderizing tough cuts of meat and cooking whole grains, beans and other inexpensive ingredients in record time.

How does the pressure cooker work its magic? In the vacuum-sealed cooker, water boils at 242 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the standard 212 degrees. At this higher-than-normal boiling point temperature, food cooks in one-third or less the normal time. That’s why many Top Chefs are relying on the pressure cooker to help them win.

I’m no Top Chef in any kind of competition, but last Sunday was so cold out that I was tempted to stay in bed and read. Then hunger struck. I didn’t want to go out and shop, so I decided to devise a hearty pressure-cooked soup from ingredients in my pantry.

In celebration of the Year of the Pressure Cooker, I put on my chef’s jacket and asked The Sweetie to make a video of the process. About 30 minutes later we were eating a mighty fine Curried Split Pea Soup that cost under $8 and made 4 hearty portions.

Take a look at the video and then let me know if you decide to help make 2010 the Year of the Pressure Cooker, all the while eating better, faster, cheaper, and more eco-friendly than you ever have before.

In the first video, I show you how to assemble the ingredients in the pressure cooker and lock on the lid. In the second, I show you how to release the pressure and stir in some last-minute ingredients for a punch for flavor and a fresh finish.

NOTE: Due to my technological inability to put videos on this site, I will refer you to Lorna's original post on her site so that you can see the videos or you can look at the You Tube video directly.

I hope that you'll help convert more people to the joys of pressure cooking. Please leave a comment on this blog if you love pressure cooking and tell me about your favorite dish.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Black Eyed Pea Soup with Brown Rice, Corn and Peppers

The title of this soup doesn't do it justice but if writing this post means that I will delay any longer then this title will stick for now. I haven't posted here in (I hate to admit this) almost 4 months. But you can always check out my other blog where I post more frequently (or less infrequently).

I made this soup on New Year's Eve as a way to bring good luck in the new year. I usually make Jumpin' John (the vegetarian version of Hoppin' John) but decided to do something new this year as we were having a soup and salad dinner for New Year's Eve with a friend. I made Mushroom Barley Soup and this one. They were both quite delicious, and the mushroom soup provides incredible immune-boosting properties but this year I will go for good luck.

I hope that you like this soup. I make it in the pressure cooker, of course, but it can be made stove top. You can substitute other grains such as wild rice (cook longer) or barley for the brown rice if you like. This pretty soup is filling and gluten-free. Add more herbs and spices, to season it the way that you like it.

Black Eyed Pea Soup with Brown Rice, Corn and Roasted Peppers
This soup is easy for to make any time since almost all the ingredients, except greens, are pantry or freezer staples.
Serves 4-6
20 minutes at pressure, quick release, 2 minutes at pressure, natural release

1-2 teaspoons olive or other oil (optional)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom or coriander

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 cup brown rice
4 cups homemade vegetable stock
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight or quick soaked
1 cup frozen corn, not thawed
½ diced roasted red pepper
½ cup chopped nettles or other greens such as kale or collards
1 teaspoon salt
More crushed red pepper, to taste
Chopped cilantro, if you have it

Heat the oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spices and garlic, and stir to combine. Add the rice and stir that to coat with oil and spices. Add the stock and lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure. Lower heat to maintain high pressure for 20 minutes.
Quick release the pressure and add the remaining ingredients, up to the salt. Bring back to high pressure for 2 more minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and let the pressure come down naturally. Stir in the salt, crushed red pepper and cilantro.

Note: If you have leftover soup, it will likely get very thick and you might need to thin it with more stock. If that happens when cooking, add stock until soup is desired thickness. I really like thick and chunky soup.