April 8, 2014

Pinto beans with green chilies

Last year I bought myself a pressure cooker. I use it all the time. I tell everyone about the glamorous lifestyle of cooks that own pressure cookers. I talk as if I'm an expert. Here's a list of why I love them:

  • Pressure cookers (PCs) are fast. The cooking time for just about everything is reduced, sometimes by a third, and sometimes by half. 
  • Beans cooked in a pressure cooker almost always taste better than any other method.
  • I don't have to soak beans before cooking.
  • Pressure cookers allow cooks to multitask seamlessly. 
  • The new, or second generation, cookers don't have the loud hiss or the jiggle top pressure release. They are quiet.
Used daily they really do change the way you start to see ingredients and the time it takes to make things. The PC hasn't replaced everything in my kitchen, but it surely gets used at least 4-5 times per week.

Pinto beans cooked in a pressure cooker come out very creamy. This element of creaminess is great when paired with a little heat from the green chilies, and some acidity from fresh lime and cilantro. This is an excellent side dish, when paired with black bean veggie patties, or it can be served as a soup with some tortilla chips on the side. I won't judge.

Pinto beans with green chilies in 10 steps
Yield: serves 4 generous servings

1 cup dry pinto beans, (see Step 1 of Directions below) 
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (see Step 3 of Directions below)
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 of a large or medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 and 1/2 cups no-chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1, 4 oz can diced green chilies (such as La Victoria fire roasted diced green chilies)
1 tsp salt

For garnish:
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
the juice of 1/2 of  lime

Step 1: We are going to check out the awesomeness of the pressure cooker by preparing dried pinto beans but using the quick soak method of the cooker. Place 1 cup of dried pinto beans, 4 cups of water, and 1 tsp salt in the pressure cooker (OK to use the smaller fry pan with a 2.5 quart capacity). Close the lid and bring the contents to high pressure which is indicated by the second red ring. Cook for 2 minutes at high pressure, and then use the water release method to remove pressure. This means as soon as the time is over, place the cooker in the sink and run water down it's side to remove pressure and stop cooking. Remove the beans from the pressure cooker in a drainer, allow the water to drain away, and wipe out the cooker bottom. Proceed with the recipe. This is called quick soak. This can be done to any beans and then used in the recipe (This step replaces the usual soak and rest time for beans). *see my note below. 

Step 2: Heat the pressure cooker over medium heat (OK to use the smaller fry pan with a 2.5 quart capacity). 

Step 3: Add the whole coriander seeds and toast until fragrant about 5 minutes. Do not walk away because they go from toasted to burned very quickly. Remove the toasted coriander seeds to a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.  

Step 4: Turn the heat on the burner to medium low. Add olive oil or butter to the PC. It will melt quickly since the pan will be hot. Add the onions right away and stir. Cook the onions until they are just translucent, about 5 minutes. 

Step 5: Add the bay leaves to the PC. Stir.

Step 6: Add the drained pinto beans to the PC. Stir. 

Step 7: Add the broth or water along with the diced chilies. Use water to get any residual chilies. Trust me, the flavor for this really is pulled together with the chilies. 

I did not forget the salt or spices - you add it at the end after the PC is done cooking! 

Step 8: Stir everything together, close the pressure cooker with it's lid, and bring to high pressure (the second red bar). Once the cooker reaches high pressure, cook 12 minutes. Once the timer goes off, turn off the heat, and move the PC to another burner. Use the natural release method; this is the method where the cooker sits and rests to come down to pressure naturally without doing anything to it.  

Step 9: Grind the coriander seeds and add the ground coriander to the cumin, set aside.

Step 10: When the cooker is ready, open up the lid, and taste for salt.  Add 1 teaspoon salt, the spices, and squeeze in the lime juice and cilantro. Give a quick stir and taste for salt. Remove the bay leaves. Serve with extra lime slices and cilantro to be passed at the table. 

*Note: You may omit Step 1 by using beans that have already been soaked and drained. 

March 25, 2014

Quiche with asparagus

Quiche with asparagus
Yield: 8 servings, 1 slice each

1 recipe French Tart Dough (see note below)
1/2 lb or 8 oz asparagus, which is about 10-12 whole spears
6-8 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup Emmentaler or Swiss shredded
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp nutmeg

1. Prepare the tart dough for a 9" round pie plate or pan.  See note below. This can be done 1 day ahead of time.
2. Preheat the oven to 350º F or 180º C.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the asparagus whole and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and place under cold water or plunge the spears into ice water to blanch them and stop them from cooking any further. When cool enough to handle cut them in half in the middle, and then split them down the center so that the halves can lie on top of the quiche.
5. Put all the eggs in a large mixing bowl, add the milk, and beat together until well incorporated.
6. Add the shredded cheese to the eggs, and season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg.
7. Pour the quiche batter on top of the prepped tart dough.
8. Carefully arrange the asparagus halves on top. Bake the quiche for 40 minutes until lightly golden on top and cooked through. Allow to cool and set about 30 minutes before serving. This quiche pairs nicely with a small side salad.

This French tart dough recipe is one of my favorites. The instructions, comments, and pictures are superbly presented so I have opted out of recreating it here.  The recipe from the link is good for an 8" or 9" pan, but anything larger than that and you will find that the dough doesn't quite make it up the sides. To me this method of tart dough is much easier to prepare than pie dough, and much more forgiving if learning for the first time. The method is to place all of the tart dough ingredients (except the flour) into the oven until the mixture becomes piping hot. Then flour is stirred into the hot mixture and the entire thing transforms itself into a dough ball that can easily be placed into a pie plate or fluted pan.

December 3, 2013

Mushroom and summer squash gratin

mushroom and squash gratin


blue cheese

summer squash



Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and go blue cheese and mushrooms - genius! You wouldn't judge me if I did, correct? What if I told you that I dreamt this up in August? I did. That's where the summer squash comes from. Sautéed mushrooms are tossed with fresh raw garlic, layered between summer squash and filled with a blue cheese white sauce. The joy in serving these is in the red, heart shaped personal ramekins.

This recipe is best prepped in two steps. The first step is to prep the vegetables. The second step is to prep the white sauce.  Any great baking vegetables can be subbed in instead of squash. Serve these piping hot as a main course. Perfect for cooler weather.

Mini mushroom and summer squash gratins
Yield: 4-6

Ingredients for ramekins:
butter, enough to butter 4 individual ramekins
olive oil
16 oz (or about 500 g) of brown cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms
2 to 3 medium summer squash, cut into coins (can sub eggplant, tomato slices, or zucchini)
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Ingredients for the blue cheese cream sauce:
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 tbsp oregano, dried
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz blue cheese

  1. Lightly grease individual ramekin dishes. If you don't have mini casserole dishes than grease an 8" by 8" pan. Preheat the oven to 400 º F (200 º C).
  2. Meanwhile, brush any loose dirt off of the mushrooms, remove the stems, and slice the mushrooms into thin slices. Slice the summer squash into thin rounds or coins (1/8"), and chop up the garlic.
  3. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the mushrooms. They should be done in about 12 minutes. Stir the garlic into the mushrooms, allow to heat up briefly, and remove from the pan once aromatic.
  4. Add the summer squash to the pan. There should be enough oil. Lightly sauté for 5 minutes and then remove. Allow both the summer squash and mushrooms to cool off by allowing them to sit on a plate. You can prepare the blue cheese sauce.
  5. Take a medium sauce saucepan and heat up 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Once hot sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of flour and take a whisk and start stirring the flour into the butter. Sprinkle in a bit more, such as the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour, and stir together until the mixture turns golden. Turn the heat down to low and stir in 2 cups of milk while stirring together with the whisk. The sauce will need to be stirred constantly. If you leave it unattended the flour may start to cook and stick to the bottom of the pan, and you will have a lot of lumps in your sauce. The sauce will gradually begin to thicken, but should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.
  6. Once the sauce begins to thicken (about 10 minutes), you can add in oregano, and black pepper. Then add crumbled blue cheese and keep stirring to make sure the cheese melts into the sauce. Taste and adjust with salt if needed. About 1/4 of a teaspoon is all you need to give the dish it's added edge. Turn the heat off the sauce.
  7. Prep the ramekins: add about a tbsp or two to the bottom of the mini casserole dishes. Layer the mushrooms and summer squash together, and then top each layer with a bit of sauce. Once filled, top the ramekin with sauce and place in a baking sheet or tray to catch any bubble overs. If you are using a casserole dish you can assemble similarly and top with the sauce.
  8. Place them in the oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling and golden on top.

September 17, 2013

Massaman Curry





I bought a pressure cooker. It's a second generation six-piece Kuhn Rikon Duromatic. It came in two different sizes, with a lid that can be shared between the two, another glass lid for cooking, and a trivet for steaming. Simply put, pressure cookers save time. Second generation pressure cookers are designed to be safer because they are supposed to be constructed with at least two or three safety releases, and they are designed to indicate clearly when the cooker has come to low or high pressure. There is no loud hissing. In older, or first generation, pressure cookers they usually have a jiggle top which releases pressure in loud hisses after reaching pressure.

Laura, of the Hip Pressure Cooking blog, has written extensive reviews on different types of pressure cookers, and I found her detailed, and highly knowledgeable reviews, are what sold me on the Kuhn Rikon. Her recipes are modern, adaptable, and reproducible. She has basic pressure cooking tutorials that are easy to follow, and her site has created a community of modern day pressure cooker enthusiasts.

Over the past few weeks, a personal barrier I had to using my new pressure cooker was relearning how to adapt recipes. I found that after a few weeks of trial and error, the learning curve for seasoned cooks is fast. The learning curve for beginner and novice cooks (the hubs is categorized in this category) is also fast. Our pressure cooker came with a cookbook which is a great reference guide. The hubs started out with potatoes, moved to cooking beans a few times, and made a rice pilaf, and a Mediterranean couscous. To vegetarians, the cooking time for beans and lentils will be slashed in half. This, and this reason alone, is one of the very essential reasons to own one, and it explains why pressure cookers are a sustaining life force in Indian households.

Channa Dhal Mushroom Massaman Curry
Adapted from Food and Wine
Yield: 4 servings

This curry is delicious. I think the ingredients list is a bit daunting, but the outcome is marvelous. With a pressure cooker you really save time because you can utilize the 12 minutes that the cooker is cooking to prepare other things and clean up. The sweet potatoes melt into the dish, the channa dhal bulks up the curry, and replaces chicken in the original recipe. I have added mushrooms, channa dhal, and coriander, and replaced water for the broth.

Ingredients for curry paste:
1" of ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 can coconut milk

Ingredients for curry:
2 tbsp peanut oil, divided
1/4 cup channa dhal or split yellow lentils, soaked in 1 cup of water*
1 onion
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1" chunks
3/4 cup water
1 package of mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
1-2 tsp rice wine vinegar, optional
1 medium tomato
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
4 cups cooked white long-grain rice


  1. Soak the channa dhal in 1 cup of water. Set aside. 
  2. The next step will be making a curry paste. You have three options 1) use a mortar and pestle, 2) use a food processor, 3) finely chop with a knife. I used the mortar and pestle because you end up with about 2-3 tbsp of curry paste a small amount for the food processor. In a mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic with the salt until it is a coarse paste. Remove this to a small mixing bowl that can hold 2 cups worth. Add the ginger and pound together. Scrape this into the bowl. Add the remaining spices and the coconut milk to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. 
  3. In a 4 quart pressure cooker (my small pressure fry pan is < 3 quarts) heat up 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Once hot, sauté the onions for 3 minutes. 
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, stir together, and then add in the channa dhal along with the water. Add 3/4 cup of water. Do not add salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then close the lid. Bring the pressure cooker to the first red ring and then cook over low pressure for 12 minutes. Use the natural release method. 
  5. Heat up the remaining 1 tbsp of peanut oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron or non-stick skillet.  Once hot, add in the mushrooms and sauté about 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle the rice wine vinegar on top, cook 3 more minutes and cut the heat and remove the pan from the heat. 
  6. Open up the pressure cooker and put it back on the heat. Stir in the coconut milk curry mixture, add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. This should only take a few minutes. 
  7. Garnish with peanuts and cilantro and serve immediately, preferably over cooked white rice. 

*Note: soaking the channa dhal is not necessary, but I find that it cooks faster.

September 8, 2013

Watermelon margarita

Watermelon margaritas

Watermelon margaritas

Heirloom watermelons and I have got a few things going.  I think I'm smitten with their red ripe juice, and their pretty bulky bodies. Even the seeds have something sassy to say to me. So I blended them up and shushed them with fresh lemon, tequila and simple syrup. 

Omit the tequila and simple syrup if you just want a variation of a watermelon cooler. These watermelon margaritas are delicious, simple, and refreshing. 

The heirlooms available to me are moon and stars (gorgeous!) and Charleston grays. 

Watermelon margaritas
Yield: 2 margaritas

2 cups watermelon, optional to remove seeds, plus a few small wedges for garnish
1/4 cup simple syrup (directions below)
handful ice cubes
freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 of a large lemon
3 oz tequila

  1. Fill a low-ball cocktail glass with ice and water. Set aside. 
  2. Cut up the watermelon from the rind into large chunks, remove the seeds if desired, and place into a blender. 
  3. To the blender add in 1/4 cup simple syrup and ice cubes.
  4. Top with freshly squeezed lemon juice and tequila.
  5. Blend together until combined well. Meanwhile remove the ice and water from the cocktail glass. 
  6. Strain into chilled cocktail glasses, garnish with a few ice cubes and a watermelon wedge. If the seeds are left in they will fall to the bottom, but they give a nice flecked appearance when served immediately.
Note: to make simple syrup add an equal part water and an equal part sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the sauce pan over medium-low heat stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for several weeks.