Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pressure cooker

I used my new pressure cooker for the first time. First, I used it to quick-soak chickpeas. Quick-soaking normally takes 1-2 hours. (Soaking overnight, of course, takes 4-8 hours.) I never prepare chickpeas because I rarely plan ahead to that extent -- it's hard when you work full time. In the pressure cooker, it takes 4 minutes of cooking, plus an additional 2 or 3 to let the pressure come down. Amazing!

A cookbook I got for my birthday, Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass, which gives you lots of great recipes and charts with cooking times for pressure cooking beans, grains, and veggies, imparted a handy tip for seeing if your chickpeas are properly soaked: simply cut a few in half with a paring knife. If there's a dark spot in the middle, they're not done. If they're all one color, they're soaked.

After soaking the chickpeas, I used the pressure cooker to make Chickpea Soup Italiano, a recipe in Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. It was very easy: just add chickpeas, vegetables and herbs to boiling vegetable stock, close the cooker up, and cook for 16 minutes. Let the pressure subside, then simmer it while adding tomatoes blended with some of the chickpeas, salt, pepper, and vinegar. It was rustic and simple, but quite tasty. And would have taken an additional hour or two without the cooker.

I was quite scared of the cooker at first, but I'm starting to be more at ease with its gleaming, angry, hissing presence in my kitchen. It's going to make my life a LOT easier, especially on work nights. I strongly recommend getting one, especially if you eat a lot of legumes!

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