Cool pressure cooking

“The modern pressure cooker is a must-have tool for busy cooks.”

Pressure cooker chocolate cake (photo credit: MELISSA’S PRODUCE)
Pressure cooker chocolate cake
(photo credit: MELISSA’S PRODUCE)
Recently we attended a cooking demonstration that illustrated why pressure cooking is becoming cool again.
The demonstrator, Jill Nussinow, author of the cookbook Vegan Under Pressure, pointed out that today’s pressure cookers are not like those our grandmas used. Thanks to their built-in safety features, stories of soups splattering the ceiling are just old family tales.
“The modern pressure cooker is a must-have tool for busy cooks,” she said. “I would not like to live without one.”
With the pressure cooker, we can quickly make tasty meals from fresh vegetables or dried beans instead of reaching for a can. For example, if you soak chickpeas in advance, said Nussinow, they need only 13 minutes to cook in the pressure cooker.
In our kitchen we often pressure-cook chickpeas without soaking them, and they take about a third of the time to cook as they would in a regular pot. Their texture is tender, and their cooking liquid tastes better because the chickpeas need less water to cook in the pressure cooker.
When Nussinow cooks tender vegetables, such as zucchini or broccoli, together with grains, beans or firm, long-cooking vegetables, she adds the tender vegetables off the heat, once the other ingredients are cooked. She then places the lid back on the pressure cooker, locks it, and allows the tender vegetables to cook from the steam of the mixture, which remains hot because the pressure cooker is well insulated. This is the technique that she uses in her potato vegetable salad with mustard tarragon dressing. (See recipe.)
Soups and stocks come out even better in the pressure cooker, said Nussinow; their flavors seem to intensify. For her easy-to-make creamy butternut squash soup, which cooks in only seven minutes, she adds flavor by cooking the squash in vegetable stock and coconut milk. (See recipe.)
Nussinow uses the pressure cooker even to cook a chocolate cake – something to consider when the weather gets too hot to turn on the oven.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book Classic Cooking Techniques.

Potato vegetable salad with mustard tarragon dressing 
Adding corn and tomatoes to the potato salad makes it colorful and bright, wrote Nussinow. For an especially pretty salad, she recommends using potatoes of different colors.
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium onion, sliced into 6-mm.-thick half rounds
680 gr. fingerling potatoes or other small potatoes, cut into 5-cm. pieces
¾ cup vegetable stock
1 cup fresh or frozen (not thawed) corn kernels
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plain or lemon flavored
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. rice, champagne, or white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. cashew butter, tehina, or olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (garnish)
Heat a stove-top pressure cooker over medium heat, or set an electric pressure cooker to sauté. Add onion and dry sauté for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stock. Lock on the lid, bring to high pressure, and cook for 3 minutes. Quick-release the pressure. Remove the lid, carefully tilting it away from you.
Add the corn, lock the lid on the cooker, and let sit for 1 minute. Transfer everything to a bowl and cool for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, vinegar and cashew butter in a bowl and whisk well. Stir in the tarragon.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the potatoes and add the dressing. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand for a few minutes for flavor to blend. Serve garnished with parsley.

Creamy butternut squash soup with toasted pumpkin seed-apple topping

“I must make winter squash soup at least 20 different ways,” wrote Nussinow. This parve soup is flavored with apples and a touch of curry powder. Add coconut milk to make it rich, or coconut water for a lighter soup.
Serves 6 to 8
Topping:
1 tart-sweet red apple such as Gala, cored and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. orange juice
½ tsp. grated lime or lemon zest
2 tsp. fresh lime or lemon juice
Pinch of ground cardamom
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) or parsley
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
Soup:
2 cups finely chopped onion
2-3 tsp. curry powder or more, to taste
1 medium-to-large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (to get at least 5 cups)
1 apple (any kind), peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable stock
1½ cups coconut milk or coconut water
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Topping: Mix chopped apple, orange juice, lime zest and juice and cardamom in a small bowl. Cover and set aside. Keep cilantro and pumpkin seeds separate.
Soup: Heat a stove-top pressure cooker over medium heat, or set an electric pressure cooker to sauté. Add onion and dry sauté for 3 minutes. Add curry powder, squash, diced apple, stock, coconut milk and salt.
Lock the lid on the cooker. Bring to high pressure; cook for 4 minutes. Let pressure come down naturally. Remove the lid, carefully tilting it away from you.
Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Add pepper, to taste.
Just before serving, top each bowl with apple topping, cilantro and pumpkin seeds.

Chickpea broccoli salad
“This simple, versatile salad can be served warm or chilled,” wrote Nussinow. “...If your broccoli is young and tender, it won’t require any pressure, just a few minutes sitting in the covered cooker. Otherwise, use larger broccoli florets and cook briefly at low pressure.”
Serves 4
¾ cup chickpeas, soaked and drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
A 7.5-cm. piece of kombu (edible kelp) (optional)
¾ cup vegetable stock
225 gr. broccoli florets
½ cup sliced red onion
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 Tbsp. chopped Kalamata olives (optional)
¼-½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Dressing:
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. white miso (optional)
Put chickpeas, garlic, kombu and stock in a pressure cooker and lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure; cook for 13 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally.
In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients: lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, garlic, olive oil and miso. Set aside.
Open the lid of the cooker, carefully lifting it away from you. Add the broccoli and lock on the lid. Bring to low pressure, cook for 1 minute, then quick-release. (In an electric cooker, set to 0, bring to pressure, then immediately quick-release.) Alternatively, stir in the broccoli, lock on the lid, and let sit until the broccoli becomes tender, up to 5 minutes.
Open the cooker carefully. Remove and discard the kombu (or save for another use). With a slotted spoon, transfer the chickpeas and broccoli to a serving bowl.
Add the dressing to the chickpea mixture. Add the onion, parsley, olives and pepper flakes, and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve warm or chilled. (If serving chilled, taste the salad when it is cold, to see if you need to adjust the seasonings again.)

Black bean and sweet potato hash
Nussinow likes this hash for breakfast but commented that it’s also suitable for lunch or a light dinner. Serve it as a side dish, or spoon it over brown rice or quinoa or into a pita; or you can serve it atop tortillas to make soft tacos with avocado, cilantro (fresh coriander) and your other favorite taco toppings.
Serves 4
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped peeled sweet potatoes (about 2 small or medium)
2 tsp. mild or hot chili powder
⅓ cup vegetable stock
1 cup cooked black beans (see note below)
¼ cup green onions, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
Splash of hot sauce (optional)
Chopped cilantro (garnish)
Heat a stove-top pressure cooker over medium heat, or set an electric pressure cooker to sauté. Add the oil. Add onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir. Add sweet potatoes and chili powder. Stir to coat sweet potatoes with chili. Add stock and stir.
Lock the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure; cook for 3 minutes. Quick-release the pressure. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you.
Add the black beans, green onions and salt. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, or lock on the lid and let stand for 3 minutes, until beans are heated through. Add hot sauce and more salt, if you like. Top with cilantro and serve.
Note: To pressure-cook black beans: Soak 1 cup of beans. Drain them and put them in a pressure cooker with ¾ cup fresh water. Cook them for 4 to 6 minutes at high pressure and allow the pressure to naturally release. You will have 2 to 2½ cups cooked beans.