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Everyday food: Pressure cookers can make meal prep quick and easy

Posted Friday, Jun. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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How it works When heated, some of the liquid turns into steam in the tightly sealed pressure cooker. With no place to escape, the steam increases pressure and raises the temperature in the pot so it’s hotter than ordinary boiling water. Quick tips for pressure cooking Do your homework Every pressure cooker operates a bit differently, so be sure to read the manual before using yours for the first time. Leave some room Don’t fill your pressure cooker more than two-thirds full. That remaining space is needed to build up pressure. Just add water ... ... or broth, or wine. No matter what type you choose, pressure cookers require some liquid to create steam. Start your clock The cooking time begins once the pressure has been reached. Play it safe Always err on the side of undercooking. Check for doneness once the pressure is released; you can always clamp the lid back on and cook longer.
White-bean soup with grilled sausages Serves 8 Dried beans cook rapidly in the pressure cooker. We quick-soak beans here by boiling them and letting them sit for 30 minutes, but you can soak them overnight instead. • 1 pound dried cannellini beans • 4 cups chicken broth • 3 cloves garlic, minced • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes • Salt • 1 large bunch escarole, roughly chopped • Vegetable oil, for grill • 8 chicken-apple sausages (about 1 pound) • Grated Parmesan, for serving 1. In a 6-quart pressure cooker, cover beans with 2 inches water, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let soak 30 minutes. Drain beans and return to pressure cooker. Add broth, garlic and red-pepper flakes; season with salt. Secure lid. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat and cook until beans are tender, about 20 minutes to 22 minutes (adjust heat to maintain pressure). Remove from heat, vent pressure and remove lid. Stir in escarole. 2. Meanwhile, heat a grill or grill pan to high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. Grill sausages until browned, about 12 minutes; let rest 5 minutes, then slice. Serve soup topped with sausages and Parmesan. Nutritional information per serving (without Parmesan): 322 calories, 9 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 37 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 10 grams fiber and 25 percent of calories from fat.
Shrimp-and-herb risotto Serves 6 To make it vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead and roasted vegetables, such as mushrooms or cherry tomatoes, for the shrimp. • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped • 2 cloves garlic, minced • 1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice • 4 cups chicken broth, divided • Salt and pepper • 1 pound large shrimp (31 to 35), peeled and deveined • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces) • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving 1. In a 6-quart pressure cooker, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups broth and season with salt. Secure lid. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cook until rice is tender, about 10 minutes (adjust heat to maintain pressure). 2. Remove from heat, vent pressure and remove lid. Stir in remaining 1 cup broth and shrimp and cook over medium heat until shrimp are opaque, about 3 minutes to 5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, herbs and remaining tablespoon butter. Serve topped with additional herbs. Nutritional information per serving: 249 calories, 7 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 22 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 1 gram fiber and 25 percent of calories from fat.
Pulled pork tacos Serves 6 to 8 • 4 cloves garlic, minced • 2 teaspoons dried oregano • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin • Coarse salt and pepper • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces. • Corn tortillas, pickled red onions, sour cream, cilantro leaves and lime wedges, for serving 1. Combine garlic, oregano, cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss with pork and place in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Add 1/4 cup water and secure lid. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat and cook until meat is fork tender, about 40 minutes (adjust heat to maintain pressure). Remove from heat, vent pressure and remove lid. Using two forks, shred pork and serve with tortillas and desired toppings. Nutritional information per serving (based on 8, pork only): 204 calories, 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 1 gram carbohydrate, 34 grams protein, 0 grams fiber and 26 percent of calories from fat.

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Easy, speedy and made in a single pot: That’s what we call a dinner triple threat.

One way to achieve the mealtime trifecta is to use a pressure cooker, which utilizes steam and a tightly sealed lid to create a high-pressure environment that accelerates the cooking process.

It’s like pressing fast-forward on your favorite dishes: Most can cook in a third of the time they would need in the oven or on the stovetop. That means slow-cooked dishes, such as pulled pork, are possible even on a weeknight.

Unlike their vintage predecessors, modern pressure cookers are very safe, thanks to mechanisms that prevent the lid from opening until all of the pressure has been released. Lighter, quick-cooking foods, such as fish or delicate vegetables, can easily overcook, so save pressure cooking for heartier fare like large cuts of meat, sturdy root vegetables and dried beans.

Everyday Food magazine offers quick, healthy solutions for everyday meals – from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. For more recipes and additional tips, visit www.marthastewart.com/everydayfood. Questions or comments about the column should be sent to: everydayfood@marthastewart.com

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