Under Pressure

When my husband first told me he had ordered a pressure cooker online, I couldn’t even manage to groan politely inside my head. What the heck were we going to do with a pressure cooker besides make curries? Before this, all I knew about this particular appliance was what I’d picked up from Indian books and movies. And while I could live happily on curries for the rest of my days, I didn’t honestly think we would be making them enough to warrant a whole kitchen appliance devoted to them.

“You can use it as a rice cooker,” he said. But I’ve never had a problem making rice in a regular pot. It still seemed like an extra gadget. Something else to plug in and take up counter space. He was going to have a difficult time convincing this Luddite that we needed an electric appliance to do something I could do with a regular pot. After all, I don’t even own a hand mixer because I have a wooden spoon that works just fine. This was part of my resistance to getting a pressure cooker. Also, counter space is a valuable commodity in any kitchen, and I was already taking up space with a snow cone machine (that’s a story for another post).

“And you can make beans really quickly!” he added, as the pièce de résistance. Okay, well, here he had me. Now my interest was piqued. We were just coming off a stint on the Paleo diet, and man, was I jonesing for some beans! I had missed beans more than any other food (bread was easier to eat sneakily at, say, a bakery)– and beans also happened to be my cooking nemesis. Even if I cooked them all day, they never softened up quite right. Salt, no salt, presoaking, it didn’t matter. Lentils and I had an understanding, but all other legumes refused to cooperate.

So when our pressure cooker arrived on our doorstep, beans were the first thing we made.

Curried chickpeas, to be exact, and they were heavenly and buttery even though we hadn’t used butter. And quick! Suddenly we could make a pot of beans before going off to work in the morning! A HUGE pot of rice only took ten minutes! Steel cut oatmeal only took twelve minutes (I like it soupy, so I add extra water) and I didn’t have sit over and stir it the whole time anymore. An entire pot of whole potatoes took only thirteen minutes– ready to be mashed, fried, oven-finished, or made into a salad! And have you ever had congee for breakfast? Because it’s really good. We have used this contraption almost every day for a year now. After a year, we have used the pressure cooker so consistently that we’ve never had a chance to put it away– it would be like packing up a stove burner. Why would you do that?

Last night, we put several whole baby Romanesco cauliflowers into the pressure cooker, and they came out so meltingly tender that even the stem was edible. We dressed them simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon– and even our nine year old daughter wanted more. Any appliance that will help my kid eat green things (other than broccoli and brussels sprouts, which she already loves) is welcome in our house.

Sputnikcccp at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Eat your fractals!
Last but not least, here are three tips from this Luddite newbie.

1. At first, follow the directions that come with your pressure cooker. TO THE LETTER! You can always cook something more, but you can’t uncook something that’s already turned to mush.

2. If your pressure cooker has a sauté function, use it! Why mess up a separate saucepan to brown butter or sauté some onions?

3. If you get a CSA box and don’t know what to do with some of your extra, rather aged vegetables, toss them in the pressure cooker.

Maybe a hand mixer is not such a bad idea after all?

 

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