The Pressure's On
March 30th, 2012 - By Lari Robling
If your memories of a pressure cooker are grandma's noisy, sputtering explosive cooker, there's good news. Today's pressure cookers are fool proof, cut cook time by about a third and make dried beans an easy as well as nutritious addition to your dishes.
-Black Bean Soup »
You want to cook and eat healthier, but what about the time it takes? And certainly we are all watching our grocery bill theses days. So, have you considered a pressure cooker? "It's not the way that it used to be in the old days when you had things flying off and hitting the ceiling they are much more refined." That’s Chef Kathy Gold of In the Kitchen Cooking School. And I do have memories of my grandmother's pressure bomb going off, so I was happy to hear this pot has been re-engineered to be much safer and easier. A pressure cooker gives you meatballs in 4 minutes, beets in about 15, and a whole chicken in under 30 minutes.
I went to Chef Gold’s school to learn how the pressure cooker can make dried beans a snap! 'Pressure cooker is a fabulous tool. It lets you get them on the table in about 20 minutes depending on variety of bean, and you don’t have to bother with that overnight soak." Gold says the pressure cookers of today are easier but remember to read your manufacturers directions. In the case of dried beans the one adjustment you have to make is to compensate for the foam the beans produce during cooking, "by adding a little bit of oil to the water it keeps the beans from frothing up, and that way we don't clog our steam vents."
To the beans in our cooker we add water, then oil some garlic, thyme, and bay leaf for seasoning. Tighten down the lid and bring it up to pressure; then set the timer for 20 minutes, "it sounds just as it should." In what seems like almost no time at all, it’s time to release the pressure, or you can wait until the pressure reduces naturally. "The moment of truth we are going to take a look and see what we’ve got. Oh, they smell great, creamy and good. So good, try that, there you have it pressure cooking it works!"
Go ahead and use the beans to make a spicy vegetarian soup as Chef Gold does, or freeze in 1½ cup portions to substitute in recipes for a 15 ounce can.