Tuesday, January 26, 2010

About Pressure Cookers

This is the pressure cooker set that I own, and I love it!

This Fagor set comes with two pot sizes (4 quart and 8 quarter), a pressure cooker lid and a glass lid that fits both pots, and a pasta/steamer insert.

Because I do not do a lot of pressure cooking, I appreciate the fact that the pots do double duty. I keep the smaller pot on the stove and use it almost daily for regular cooking. It heats up water quickly, and it's large enough that I can cook spaghetti in it. I typically use the larger pot if I'm making a large batch of tomato sauce.

Initially, I was going to purchase the set manufactured by
Kuhn Rikon. Ultimately, price dictated my decision to go with Fagor.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Split Pea Soup In Under 30 Minutes

I could have titled this post, "Easy Split Pea Soup," but having looked at the titles of my two previous posts . . . .

Making split pea soup can be time consuming. Normally, you would be required to either soak the split peas overnight or cook the split peas for about 1 1/2 to 3 hours before pureeing them in a blender.

A pressure cooker, on the other hand, absolutely pulverizes the living $&%# out of dried split peas in about 12-15 minutes. No soaking required. No blender required. With a pressure cooker, you can make split pea soup for dinner on a weekday after coming home from work and not have to serve it at 9 p.m.

Split Pea Soup
Serves approximately 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 cups green split peas
8 cups vegetable broth (plus an additional 2 cups broth or water to thin out soup, if necessary)
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt, to taste
Sour cream (optional)

Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the next five ingredients listed above. Stir, cover, lock the lid in place, and increase the heat until high pressure has been attained. Lower the heat enough (usually low-medium) to maintain that pressure for an additional 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes has elapsed, turn off the heat and let the pressure begin to fall naturally. (If you have an electric stove, as I do, take the pot off the hot burner.) After 10 minutes has elapsed, open the valve to release any remaining pressure, if necessary.

If the consistency of the soup is too thick, thin it out with some water or additional vegetable broth. Stir in the thyme and salt. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"The Cove"

I've started living part-time in Oceanside (approximately 30-45 minutes outside of NYC) to help care for a family member. Initially, I was taking the train. Recently, though, I have been taking the bus and have been impressed by this mode of transportation for long distance travel. It's approximately $18 from DC to NY Penn Station on Bolt Bus. The return trip costs approximately $25 on DC2NY.

While en route to NY last week, I fired up my laptop and watched the film, "The Cove." It's a documentary film about the efforts of activist Ric O'Barry (the dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series) to expose the dolphin hunting practices of villagers in Taiji, a small fishing town in Japan. It's suspenseful and literally had me on the edge of my (bus) seat.

This film is highly rated, with a Metacritic score of 84 out of 100.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Easy Greek Style Salad

When I'm cooking, I have a tendency to focus on the main dish. For a side dish, I frequently find myself throwing together a mixed salad with bagged greens, tomatoes and avocados, which I toss in a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's a mindless effort.

Last night, I made this simple Greek style side salad. I love cucumbers, and this was nice change-up from the usual. And I wrapped the leftovers in lavash bread to have for lunch this afternoon.

Greek Style Salad
Serves approximately 4

3 small tomatoes, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
20 pitted kalamata olives
6 ounces feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

For the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables, olives and cheese with the dressing and serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Easy Tiramisu

On New Year's Eve, I attended a small, potluck-style party at a friend's home.

This year, I volunteered to bring a dessert. I made tiramisu using savoiardi (Italian lady fingers) I had purchased last month at Litteri's, a small Italian grocery store located in the District. (In an article I read in Cooks Illustrated, the author stresses the importance of using savoiardi cookies rather than the spongy, cake-like lady fingers more commonly found in regular supermarkets.)

While I'm not really a dessert person, I do love tiramisu. And it's so simple to make, as demonstrated below. To knock down the calories somewhat, and to get an early start on my goal of losing 10 pounds during the new year, I used Splenda instead of sugar.

Ideally, this tiramisu should be refrigerated overnight before serving to allow the egg/mascarpone mixture, which is layered between the coffee-soaked cookies, to set.

Serves 10-12
  • 40 lady fingers
  • 3 cups strongly brewed espresso coffee, cooled
  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 5 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
Add the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of coffee, Splenda and cognac to a large bowl and beat for 2-3 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat another 3-5 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.

Take each lady finger, dip one side into the remaining coffee, and layer on the bottom of a 9-inch-by-12-inch baking dish.
Spread half of the egg/mascarpone mixture over the lady fingers. Dust with a layer of cocoa powder. Repeat with the remaining lady fingers and the egg/mascarpone mixture. Dust with a final layer of cocoa powder.

Cover the baking dish with plastic or foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.