Posts Tagged ‘pressure cooker


Happy freezer, full of beans

In the past week, I cooked up our stashes of dried cannellini, chickpeas, red beans, and black beans, then froze them, to make them super quick and impulsive to use.

happy freezer, full of beans

I discovered that I have to treat the black beans (and, eventually, the pinto beans) differently than the others. Red beans, chickpeas, and cannellini I can cook to softness in the pressure cooker, and it doesn’t matter to me how their liquid turns out. Black beans, though, I have to stop short of fully cooked, then transfer them to an open pot, in order to get the thick, sludgy, reduced liquid that signifies properly cooked black beans to me. With pinto beans, it’s going to be the same. How else would you later make them into proper charro beans, or borracho beans, or even refrieds? Thin bean water straight from the pressure cooker is not going to do.


When Kitchen Express and Cooks Illustrated collide

Turns out there was nothing wrong with the seal on my pressure cooker, but the pressure indicator inexplicably won’t stay up. This doesn’t affect the function (all of the beans still cooked quickly and nothing exploded), but it does make deciding when it’s safe to open the thing rather exciting.

I celebrated the lack of explosions and steam burns by using some of the white beans I cooked up to make white bean toasts, a fall recipe from Kitchen Express that works just as well in winter:

white bean toasts and cucumber soup

Mark Bittman’s recipe uses lemon juice and olive oil in place of the cream in the Joy of Cooking’s white bean paste. I left off the dried tomatoes that he suggests, since I only have smoke-dried ones, and I didn’t think that would coordinate too well with the rest of the flavors. I couldn’t be bothered to get out the food processor, so my potato-masher puree is more rustic than his, but my bread is more urbane. Why would I use a “peasant bread” when I love Noe Valley Bakery’s sour baguettes so?

But wait. What is that in the background? A totally unseasonal and unsuited to the weather chilled cucumber soup! Knowing my dedication to the joys of seasonal eating, you may well ask where that came from. I’ll tell you.

Yesterday I tested an unpublished Cooks Illustrated recipe for the first time. Even though I get their emails regularly, I’ve resisted until now because their editorial calendar keeps their test recipes so out of step with the seasons. I fell for this one because I figured the dressing on their cucumber salad would give me a good basis for trying to recreate this wonderful cabbage, cucumber, mint, jalapeño, and lime salad that Burma Superstar serves. I was right about the dressing, and I’m eager to try it with a cabbage I’ll pick up at the farmers’ market tomorrow. Meanwhile, the cucumber salad was just fine, though I was worried because the cucumbers I picked up at Whole Foods were big, seedy, and bitter.

The recipe served four, so I couldn’t finish it. Into the fridge with the leftovers! And tonight, out comes—cucumber salad in a lot of liquid:

That used to be a salad.

Immersion blender to the rescue!

Now it's a soup!

It was possibly better as a soup than as a salad. I can also see potential for it as a smoothie, or a granita, or a mixer. Come summer and small, sweet cucumbers, that is.


new year, new posts

For breakfast, jalapeño cornbread, courtesy Liza:


She gave me a container of it when we met up with Richard yesterday to wander around the Haight. It was inadvertently an all-Mexican, all-the-time day, culinarily speaking. Lunch was a gigantic breakfast burrito (not quite a breakfast taco, but at least it came in a flour tortilla) at The Little Chihuahua on Divisadero, where the rice and eggs both were moist, the carne asada was good, and the beans and carnitas both seemed to lack lard. The carnitas also packed what we could only guess was curry powder…?

Dinner was leftover-turkey quesadillas and mixed-salsas-on-lettuce salad at Steve and Liza’s, where I went to print out a manuscript on canonization to edit. Speaking of which, look what I got on Haight:

This morning, I am trying to follow Mark Bittman’s advice, from Kitchen Express, to cook dried beans when you have the time, then freeze them for later use. (I fell in love with this book while I wasn’t blogging; the quick-to-prepare recipes, arranged seasonally, are really just paragraph descriptions that assume you know how to cook and offer lots of substitution suggestions. The idea is that you should be able to peek in the book after work and throw something tasty together, and the tone is very homey and collegial.) There seems to be a problem with the seal on my pressure cooker, though, so the chickpeas may end up very tedious indeed…


using what you’ve got

The October issue of Harpers has a wonderfully food-obsessed letter by Patrick Symmes, who spent a month in Havana living on an official Cuban journalist’s salary–$15. Though, as a foreigner, he lacks the ration book that would have made his life easier, he makes the connections he needs to procure most of what the ration book would have provided, without breaking the bank.

Good thing, too, as the rations aren’t nearly enough to live on for a month: 1 pound grain; 1 piece fish; 1 pound crude sugar; 4 pounds refined sugar. Everybody has some kind of source on the side.

But seriously, what to do with all that sugar? You can only put so much in your budget-busting coffee, can only cook so much expensive fruit in simple syrup. No way an American palate could figure out what to do with the rest, and even Cubans must find it a challenge. A Cuban contact told him the secret.

When your stash of foreign whiskey has run out and you find yourself “hard-pressed to enjoy [1,700-calorie-a-day] Cuba without a drink,” you start looking for yeast, purified water, and the clean tubing that will turn your government-issued pressure cooker (given out as part of an energy-saving scheme) into a still. Distillation complete, Symmes writes, “this pattern continued for the last week of my residence[: i]nstant stomachache, mild drunk; headache. The two or three hours in the middle were well worth it.”



The best thing the pressure cooker has given us so far: chickpeas. Though I like hummus and falafel, I’ve never been a fan of whole chickpeas. From the can, they’re kind of grey, mushy on the outside, somehow both mealy and hard on the inside, and a little tinny. Dried chickpeas were too intimidating to try; they look like they’ll cook forever and never get soft. But with the pressure cooker, I tried them yesterday.

So good! The taste is a little grassy (in a good way), they’re still a little mealy but not hard, and they’re yellow, not grey. I made way too many, but I don’t mind at all. Last night a cup of them made their way into Mark Bittman’s chicken and chickpea tagine*. I scaled the recipe down for two, omitted the vanilla bean, and pressure cooked it for 10 minutes rather than simmering for 45. At the end, I browned the chicken pieces in butter (they were pale and unappealing straight out of the pot), reduced the sauce (I’d added a cup extra liquid so that it would steam properly), and garnished with parsley. Served over bulgur, with a salad of mixed greens with feta, nectarine, cherry tomatoes, mint, and honey. Delicious.

This morning’s protein was chickpeas with red onion, mint, lemon juice, and salt. Tonight, we’ll be having chickpeas with spinach and chorizo again. If they’re still not gone after all that, I may try to reinvigorate three-bean salad. I mentioned I made a lot, didn’t I?

*Bittman’s tagine is a Moroccan-style dish. A Tunisian tagine is like a fritatta rather than a stew. The word “tagine” refers not to the preparation but to the cooking vessel.

So I suppose I should call mine a “pressure-cooker,” and Bittman should call his a “skillet.” But “tagine” sounds better.



the pressure cooker’s maiden voyage

That’s the pressure cooker, building up pressure to make passable black beans in about 20 minutes. They weren’t as falling-apart tender as I would have liked, but that can be fixed with more time under pressure. Fifteen minutes, instead of 12, next time. Maybe 20 if I didn’t think to soak them, like I did today. This device cut my bean cooking time down to an eighth of what it normally is. I am in love.

The beans went into a chili that involved half a pound of ground turkey, an onion, an anaheim, one chipotle in adobo, two tomatoes, three zucchinis, as well as the usual garlic, red chili powder, cumin, and salt. If I do it again, I’ll cook the beans longer, use more salt and a couple more chilis, and add a little Maseca to thicken it. Minor adjustments. It was very good, and very fast.

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