By Rose Kaplan, “virtual intern” (Editor's note: I asked Rose Kaplan to write about her work for National Nutrition Month and explain what she does at the food bank. I...
Using your pressure cooker can keep you and your kitchen cool on hot days
It’s been hot. I just looked at the map of the United States and all I see is orange and red – that means it’s hot just about everywhere. Luckily here in Northern California we have cooler mornings and evenings but during the day it’s been hot – in the high 80s and 90s.
I know that for many of you, you’ve had to endure days of 90+ degrees F. and cooking seems out of the question.
That’s where the pressure cooker comes in handy. The heat is contained in the pot while you are cooking and it doesn’t heat up your kitchen or the rest of house. You can stay cooler using the pressure cooker to make food than cooking pasta where there is hot boiling water entering your kitchen.
My very smart friend, Laurie, puts her pressure cooker outside to do a natural pressure release (like what you’d use when cooking beans or grains) cool down so that any heat that the pressure cooker would put off is a non-issue. You can also do a quick release outdoors so that the steam stays outside where it’s already hot. You can keep your kitchen cool.
Too hot to cook? Maybe not with a pressure cooker
When the weather heats up, I often turn to eating more uncooked foods: fruit, salad, raw vegetables but I still like some cooked food. I am not a raw foodist, despite a eating a high percentage of raw food.
I am big on batch cooking, though. I might make a pot of quinoa, brown rice or beans (or actually all three) and then divide them into useful portions, which is usually 1 1/2 to 2 cups, and freeze them. Then when I want cooked food, I don’t even have to cook.
I do the same with soups, stew and chili.
What I cook on a fairly regular basis is a mixed vegetable dish with whatever vegetables are in season. Cooking the entire dish takes less than 10 minutes (although I realize that I might be faster with my knife than you are), of which about 5 minutes is cook time, with 3 minutes at pressure in the cooker. The 3 minutes is for hard vegetables like potatoes. Cauliflower and carrots take 2 minutes at pressure. Broccoli, summer squash and green beans only take 1 minute at pressure. The vegetables are added at varying intervals.
Flavoring the fresh vegetables
Today, I topped my cooked vegetables with a tablespoon of almond butter mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste (vegan) and a tablespoon of lime juice all mixed together. It was heavenly.
I layered that on top of cooked quinoa and sprinkled chopped cilantro on top of that.
What vegetables did I use? Onion, mushrooms, summer squash, Romano beans, baby white turnips and turnip greens. (Sorry but I ate it before thinking about taking a photo.)
Another day, I might include carrots, potato, summer squash, garlic, kale and top that with my miso-tahini-garlic sauce. Or I might add curry while cooking the vegetables.
As we get more into the true summer vegetables here, I will combine onion, garlic, peppers, tomato and eggplant and many variations of this.
The combos are only limited by your imagination, or mine.
I cook all my vegetable combos with home made vegetable broth or stock which I make weekly.
Making Your Own Vegetable Stock
If I have too much stock, I freeze it in ice cube trays and when I need a couple of tablespoons of stock, I add a cube. If I need a quarter cup, I add 2 cubes. It’s simple – and say goodbye to boxed stock.
You can add any vegetables except cruciferous vegetables to your stock. Since they are strongly flavored, they tend to make your stock stinky. You can add a little of them but not much, if any. To my vegetables, I add a bay leaf (not California bay, please), and fresh herbs such as thyme and a little rosemary, sage, oregano and fresh parsley. You can also add a piece of kombu seaweed for more minerals and some salt without adding salt.
No matter what, my home cooked stock is much better than what I can buy in a box or can. What do you think?
Pressure Cooking is Easy, Will Keep You Cool or Make You Feel Cool
I could go on and on about pressure cooking but I really wrote this post because I know that some of you don’t think of using your pressure cooker in the summer. It’s actually the best time to use your pressure cooker. There is abundance of fresh vegetables with which you can cook. We often suffer from summer heat, and pressure cooking is a great way to get some good tasting food fast. Or as I say, you can have the New Fast Food right in your kitchen.
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This post was intended to offer you some cool relief in the kitchen on a hot day.