Operation Pressure Cooker
October 11, 2010

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Greetings from DC!

Glad that the pumpkin chia pudding got such a hefty response. I’m already excited to make it again! I also wanted to point out that Lori and Michelle actually beat me to that punch: they posted a similar pudding a few days ago, using young Thai coconut meat, too. Check it out!

On Friday, I mentioned that I tend to be a slouch about using all of my many kitchen appliances to their full advantage, and posted a new favorite rice cooker recipe. This weekend, I got a tutorial in a kitchen appliance I’ve yet to use, but have been curious about for a long time: the pressure cooker.

All vegetarians and vegans ought to own pressure cookers. Why? Because as much as they’re commonly used to make meat dishes or chicken (ack), they’re probably best known for slashing down the cooking time on rice, beans, and legume-based stews. This is part of why they’re ubiquitous in countries like India, where rice and beans are mainstays. It also makes them dream appliances for vegans and vegetarians, who count grains and legumes as the cornerstones of their diet. I’m no exception to this rule, though I do often find myself purchasing canned beans rather than cooking them properly, mostly because the thought of ninety minutes of cooking anything feels painful to me. With a pressure cooker, I’d be able to whip up beans and grains in as little time as it takes me to make salad dressing.

Why? If you’re interested in the full mechanics of pressure cooking, I’ll direct you to the very extensive and helpful Wikipedia entry to that effect. But to put things simply, pressure cookers trap steam, which raises pressure within the pot. Water boils at a higher temperature at higher pressure, which means that the water and temperature in the cooker can reach higher temperatures in shorter times than they would via conventional cooking. Translation: rice, beans, soups, stews, veggies, and more, all in twenty minutes or (usually) much less. This means lower utility bills, less electricity use, and faster dinners for impatient diners. As a nutritional bonus, faster cooking times also mean less vitamin and nutrient depletion—an important concern to rawcurious vegans.

Pressure cookers have always struck me as appliances only for the hardcore. Even the name sounds intense, and I’ve had nightmarish visions of exploding pots, jiggling metal parts, and steam burns for as long as I’ve been interested in pressure cooking. Last night, however, my friend M, with whom I’m staying in DC, showed me how to use his pressure cooker(s).

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As it turns out, they’re not difficult at all! In fact, they involve nothing more than putting water and food in a pot, affixing a sturdy top to it, and watching somewhat vigilantly until the cooking time (which is miniscule) ticks away. At the end, you release pressure, either by letting the steam release from the pot naturally, or by a rapid release mechanism (which will vary on various pressure cooker models). That’s it.

For my first pressure cooker experience, I got to watch as rice and beans came together in twenty minutes flat. M happens to have two pressure cookers (he’s an aficionado), and so wild rice went into one pot, as kidney beans went into the other.

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Soon enough, both were halfway finished.

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And after some quick steam release, we had tender rice and beans for two. We kept the rice warm, while M sautéed some onion, tomato, and what he swore to me is the best vegan sausage known to man. I’m not, nor ever was I, a sausage fan, and you all know that faux meat isn’t my jam. But I have to admit, this stuff was insane:

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It’s Field Roast, and we had the Mexican Chipotle variety. Really good. Just really, really good. Even if you think the faux meats are sketchy, I suggest you try this stuff.

To this stew, M added the beans. I steamed up some fresh CSA broccoli, and tossed that with a simple lemon vinaigrette and some avocado (it wouldn’t be a meal without it). Moments later, rice, broccoli, and bean stew were plated.

Note the carrot/celery/ginger/pear cocktails—M is the very recent and very sanguine owner of a new juicer, and we were pretty excited for these guys:

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Check out the finished vegan stew:

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The rice:

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And the broccoli:

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Dinner for two:

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Tonight, we made good use of the leftovers, mixing them together and serving them with some butternut squash and salad.

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That squash, by the way? Seven minutes in the pressure cooker. Incredible stuff.

So now, I’m doing some brand comparison in my head, because it’s obvious to me that I’ve been deprived each and every year that I lived without one of these genius appliances. Stay tuned for a major purchase announcement, perhaps paired with a review, and a long winter full of hearty soups and stews.

And now, some serious post-Columbus Day work catch up needs to happen, though it’s likely that it’ll be punctuated by an episode of Mad Men, at least if M and I have our way. And as you may have guessed by now, friend M is a little bit more than just a friend. To say much more than that would be more than I’m interested in saying: we bloggers must reserve the right to keep certain parts of our life private. But I will say this: I’m truly lucky.

I’ll be back with some DC dining recaps tomorrow. Night, bloggies.

xo

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    60 Comments
  1. Hey folks — don’t be afraid of pressure cookers! They are so different from the ones years ago — I have a “Fagor” brand and love it! Chickpeas that take upwards of 1 1/2 hours conventionally take only 10 minutes! Brown rice in 18 minutes — talk about saving energy and time…you will not regret buying one, only regret that you waited so long. They now have electric pressure cookers and from what I understand, their even easier to use.

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  3. Just found your blog by doing a Google search for “pressure cooker vegan recipes”. Looks great.

    For all of you who mentioned being afraid of pressure cookers, keep in mind that the newer pressure cookers have safety features that your mothers or grandmothers never heard of. They are very safe now. And I like the electric (digital) ones best because they don’t have to be watched. I watch mine to make sure I didn’t forget to set the pressure valve to “pressure” and once I’m sure of that, I can just ignore it until it’s done. Great risotto, easy beans from dry to done in very little time. I hardly cook any other way after getting my first one three years ago. I’m a gadget junkie so I now have several in different sizes and even one that’s oval (great for corn on the cob).

  4. I don’t have a pressure cooker, but looks like I need one! I did just buy a rice cooker the other day. Waiting for it to arrive. Had to find one that didn’t have that non-stick shit in it!

    Pressure cooker… here I come! (those two appliances are different right? lol)

  5. Gena, I am surprised you do not open a restaurant. Really shocked actually. Why don’t you? It all comes very naturally to you so why not take that plunge?

  6. […] of all, thank you all for the very sweet response to the last post. M.–who I can assure you is worthy of the excitement you all shared in your […]

  7. Thanks for the pressure cooker info!
    I, too, have been a little intimidated by pressure cookers.
    Lots of horror stories seem to surround them.

  8. Oh wow, I am now seriously wanting a pressure cooker. Imagine how much easier it would be for me to cook beans and grains… dang. Adding that to the list, hehe.

    By the way, that dinner looks fabulous. Veggies + grains + vegan stew = perfect.

  9. I´ve wanted a pressure cooker since my time in the UK. The family I lodged with had one and it´s great with legumes. Now I want one even more…

    So great to hear about your M, I wish you the best!

  10. Call me crazy but I had a feeling right away that M stood for man friend!

    That’s great Gena, you seem really happy in this post (not that you don’t in others, but especially in this one). It’s always nice to have a man who eats salad, etc with you! 🙂

  11. wow i definitely need a pressure cooker (or two). that dinner looks absolutely delish and so full of vitamins 🙂

  12. I LOVE my pressure cooker, but I forgot that I did…you just reminded me! I don’t have room for it in my kitchen so it live in our office – out of site out of mind.

    I also really like that field roast is a grain sausage and not soy. I love me some soy but everything in moderation. It is a nice change. Best part is the omnivore husband likes them a lot.

  13. I’m staying with my parents in Australia right now and after reading this I told my mum about you using a pressure cooker for vegan food and what do I find? She is selling hers on ebay…well not anymore! It’s mine! Thanks for the inspiration!!!!

  14. Gena,

    this looks amazing. have a question though regarding the faster cooking time preserving the nutrients. I thought that higher temperatures destroyed more nutrients than lower temperatures. So, if the pressure cooker cooks things quicker, but hotter, wouldn’t there be less nutritional value? I could be totally wrong…just curious! 🙂 Thanks!

  15. pressure cookers always make me think of iron chef…time constraints, running around like a mad chef, and a lot of sweating. good weekend i take it? so happy for you!!

  16. Having also witnessed a pressure cooker explosion I am wary of them, though I fully appreciate just how wonderful they are too. I am so glad you are enjoying your time in DC (I moved here after living in NYC, though I had lived here in DC before).

  17. I love love love my pressure cooker, love it 🙂 I was nervous about blowing up my kitchen so I went with an electric version and it has really been great, plug in the time and go!

    I never thought to cook squash in the pressure cooker, please oh please tell me how you did that. I would guess cut side down in an inch or so of water? Was that 7 minutes quick release or natural release?

    Your friend M sounds great, by the way 😉

  18. Wow, I am impressed, might have to get myself a pressure cooker! What a delicious looking meal. I am not a faux meat person either, but hubs loves that Field Roast,so we have it on occasion. Beautiful table setting too. Enjoy!

  19. I love field roast! It’s by far the best fake meat in the market. Have you tried the sausage with yukon gold potatoes and apples?

  20. Hi Gena, thought you might be interested to know that your new pressure cooker can double as a rice cooker. Simply put rice and water to cover by about an inch in a stainless steel (or ceramic) bowl that will fit into the cooker. Surround the bowl with an inch or two of water. Lock and seal and cook for 20 minutes. Perfect rice every time! j

    • 20 min, really? I may have to try that! Some days I just don’t have time to wait the regular 45 min in the rice cooker. So cook for 20 and do a quick release? Or do you do a natural release earlier?

    • A very late follow-up. I did indeed rush out to purchase a pressure cooker after reading this post. I’ve tried a few things but last night I made a spontaneous split-pea soup in it for Christmas Eve. The quickest, most delicious soup I’ve made to date! Thanks for turning me on to the P.C.!

  21. I like it! You, M, DC, and delicious dinners… you are making me nostalgic for DC. I have to say, calling this guy by a single letter totally heightens the intrigue. Enjoy!
    I’m also glad you’re showing of the kitchen appliances, because they’ll be going straight onto our wedding registry!

  22. wow, i didn’t realize it cut the time by that much! in college i had a friend who was cooking stew in her pressure cooker and it blew up and permanently scarred her face…i’ve been a little scared ever since!

  23. I’ve always been curious about pressure cookers. Thanks for the info! It definitely seems like a great investment. Also, I’ve had those Field Roasts before and they are SO good. I had the Italian flavor this past weekend. I’m not one to eat faux meat products..like tofu hot dogs or tofu sausage patties, for a few different reasons. However, these have an impressive ingredient list and I love that they don’t use soy. The Italian flavor was packed with fennel seeds and really tasty. Definitely a fun treat once in awhile! 🙂 Your dinners look ahhhhmazing!

  24. I’ve been using my pc for close to 10 yrs after reading Lorna Sass’s Complete Vegetarian Kitchen (all vegan). Use mine regularly for beans but the absolute best is perfect risotto can be had in minutes in the pressure cooker…

    Suggest checking out the Lagostina’s. They have, imo, a slightly safer mechanism for holding your lid in and you can get replacement parts, if you happen to have worn yours out 😉

  25. “Pressure cookers have always struck me as appliances only for the hardcore”–

    TOTALLY!!!!

    You know I just got the slow cooker but that’s $29 from Target. And I want a rice cooker. I had written a pressure cooker off my list entirely…but now, I may need it. CRAP girl!! I may go from none to: slow, rice, pressure.

    LMK what brands/ones you’re considering it b/c I think I want one now too! hahah!

    The Twins’ Chia Pumpkin recipe, yes, I had seen that. Everyone’s recipes look great!

    And M. Ok I just got giddy FOR YOU when I read your description. PLEASE keep it private and off the blog. My blog has turned into a bit of a soap opera and although it’s fun, at times, some times I wish I had never said anything about xyz aspect of life. Keep it private for as long as feels right 🙂 And so happy for you!!!!

    🙂

  26. Neither me nor anyone I’ve ever known has owned a pressure cooker, but I’m starting to think that I desperately want one. It would make cooking beans from scratch so much easier!

    If only I could get Field Roast products here in Australia too… 🙁

  27. being indian , and cooking lentils everyday , the pressure cooker is the one appliance I cannot live without. If you are interested in buying one , i would suggest checking out the indian stores in the area in you live , since the indian pressure cookers are tad bit different , some come with smaller utensils along , where you can cook the lentils and rice simultaneously …. it’s not that scary once you get used it … you will never go back to eating canned stuff … unless you get lazy 🙂 . Lovely dinner , and I have tried the field roast italian sausage , did not prefer it , maybe will try the chipotle variety next time !!

  28. After witnessing a pressure cooker explosion (not my own) I will forever be scared of pressure cookers! I’m almost tempted to try again, just so I can make rice like yours, but I need someone to come over and hold my hand. 🙂

    I agree with Jess above, M is a lucky guy!

  29. What a gorgeous dinner!

    I have had a pressure cooker on my Amazon wish list forEVER! I have never used one, but now you are tempting me to go ahead & purchase one. 🙂

    Field Roast RULES. Like you, I’m not a big faux meat fan, but wow, that stuff is insanely delicious. I love the Italian flavor in roasted veggie lasagna, and the Apple Sage is fantastic with quinoa.

    Woohoo to M! Yay! He sounds wonderful & he’s a lucky man to have you as “more than a friend.” 😉