Under Pressure (you should get a pressure cooker)

An absolutely essential tool for vegetarian cooking in my kitchen is a pressure cooker. My mentor at school told me about her purchase of one a few years ago and my purchase soon followed. I primarily rely on beans for protein in my diet (and yes, I get enough!); the pressure cooker makes cooking dried beans a dream. I've come to prefer the taste of my dried beans over their canned counterparts, especially garbanzos/chickpeas. And though they cost more upfront, a bag of dried beans lasts me a long time. Quick tip: a heaping 1/2 cup of dried beans is roughly equivalent to one can.

I chose the Cuisinart pressure cooker because of its reviews and customization ability. I also used one of those Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20% coupons and saved a bunch! It looks like the price has decreased since my purchase a few years ago, but it is a great value for either amount of money.

The trouble with pressure cooking is that a lot of online recipes use the traditional pressure cooker (stovetop, not electric). I tend to stay away from those, so I don't have to figure out how many pounds of pressure my cooker uses and how to change it, etc...you can also easily overcook foods and end up with mush. Tasty mush, but mush.

Last night I made my second attempt at pressure cooker risotto, and I will probably never make a traditional risotto again. Gordon Ramsay would be appalled, and probably think mine is substandard, but they never cook for me in the 18 minutes they say it will take. I call BS!

I made a zucchini risotto inspired by this recipe. The ingredients stay the same but the execution is different. I learned how to execute the recipe from this book, which I found used at my area amazing bookstore.

  1. Prep all your ingredients ahead of time - they all go in the cooker back-to-back. You can put your tomatoes, basil, parsley, and parmesan in the same bowl, cause they'll go in at once after the risotto is finished cooking. I used about 1/2 cup parm because I loooove cheese.
  2. Start by setting the pressure cooker to saute and heat a swirl of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and grated garlic. Saute until the onions soften, just for a few minutes. Watch that the garlic doesn't burn.
  3. Add 1/2 cup wine and simmer until mostly absorbed/evaporated and the aroma is gone.
  4. If you're a cooking multi-tasker, you can saute your chopped zucchini in some oil on the stove. For pressure cooked risotto, it can't be cooked in the pressure cooker as it can be with traditional risottos. Cover and let steam until the juices start to release and it is cooked to your liking. I added some seasoning at the very end of cooking. If you're not a multi-tasker, cook the zucchini ahead of time.
  5. Add your stock or broth to the pressure cooker, and stir to combine. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Close the lid and set the cooker to high pressure for 5 minutes.
  6. Once the timer expires, immediately quick-release the pressure. I have to be careful to not let the steam escape on my cabinets because it can damage them. My face too.
  7. There will be a pool of liquid in the top that disperses once you stir. Mine was cooked perfectly, but test for taste. Make sure the rice isn't too mushy or too crunchy. Remove the pot from the cooker if you don't want it to keep cooking from the residual heat. 
  8. Stir in your remaining ingredients, and season with salt, pepper, and parm to taste!
It is so much easier than a traditional risotto. The carnivore boyfriend enjoyed the taste, so it must have worked. 




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