A Simple Pot Of Beans (And Tips For Pressure Cooking Them)

©Tom Hirschfeld 2016 all rights reserved
©Tom Hirschfeld 2016 all rights reserved

Just about anything can be cooked in a pressure cooker. It does lots of things well. Stews, roasts, soups and one pots all come to the table hot and delicious. Even so, what really keeps the pressure cooker on the stove top is the basics. A pressure cooker cooks beans, grains, rice, and stocks effortlessly and it cooks them perfect every time. A pressure cooker is a natural in the kitchen. Not only that, as everybody knows, the pressure cooker saves time and when it comes to cooking beans it saves lots of time.

Bean Myths

We live in a world of bean myths. A world where bits of anecdotal information is passed from one generation of cooks to another. Dried beans carry suitcases full of informational baggage around with each and every pound. But what is truth and what is fiction and how should it all be sorted out?

Dried beans

There are a lot of choices when it comes to the kinds of beans you choose to cook. There are all the traditional beans -‑ black, pinto, garbanzo, navy, and kidney but there are also limitless kinds of heirloom beans with fancy names like Tiger Eye, Eye of the Goat, and Snowcap. There are even more.

When combined with a grain, more often then not rice, beans make a complete protein. This makes beans one of the least expensive healthy foods to put onto the stove. Combine them with a few spices and herbs and it becomes a flavorful dish the whole family will love.

To buy the best beans frequent a grocery that has a high turnover of dried beans. The newer the bean the better it cooks. Beans that have been around for a long time might not ever soften no matter how long you cook them. It pays to pay a little extra for good quality beans.

There are other legumes too. Split peas, lentils, and field peas cook up just as wonderfully in a pressure cooker as any of their cousins mentioned above. These legumes don’t need any kind of soak either, they can go right into the pot and cook in no time at all.

To Soak or Not to Soak?

This is a personal question. It is up to the cook whether or not to soak the beans overnight. In pressure cooker you do not need to soak the beans but there may be reasons why you want to.

One reason would be how are the beans going to be used. If they are to be pureed soaking isn’t necessary but if they are to be left whole a pressure cooker often splits beans leaving them cracked. If this is important then soak the beans.

Under pressure dried beans are cooked in minutes. Not something that can happen when they are cooked traditionally. The question becomes one of digestibility. If the beans are soaked a good deal of the gas causing chemical, phytic acid, is leached out into the soaking water which is discarded and fresh water is then added for cooking. If gastrointestinal issues are a factor presoaking is mandatory.

So while you can eliminate the soaking water when pressure cooking here is another reason it might not be a good idea. Almost any presoaked bean cooks in 10 to 14 minutes in a pressure cooker. That is what is amazing. Cooked delicious beans in such a short amount of time!

A Quick Soak

If you should forget to soak you beans you can still get a pot of beans to the table with a quick soak. Simply put the amount of beans you want to cook into the pressure cooker and for every 1 cup of beans add 4 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and lock on the pressure cooker lid. Bring to pressure and set a timer for 2 minutes. When the timer sound turn off the heat and let the beans sit for 20 minutes or until the pressure has released. Drain the soaking liquid and proceed.

Salt

There is an old wives tale about salt and beans. It says that salting beans extends their cooking time and makes the beans tough. It does not. Salting beans is paramount to great tasting beans. It is best to salt them during the soak time. About 2 teaspoons of salt per 4 cups of water is sufficient.

Foaming

Foaming is always a concern when using a pressure cooker. Foam carries particulate which can lodge and clog the pressure valves. It is best to add a tablespoon of oil or fat to the cooking liquid. This will help to prevent foaming. It is also best to use a natural or cold water release beans for the same reasons.

When To Add Acids

Tomato sauce and vinegars are often added to beans for flavor. The acids in these products can cause the beans to toughen and take longer to cook. It all depends on how much you add. A can of tomato sauce is going to affect the cooking time, a tablespoon probably not. Nevertheless, it is always best to add any of these products toward the end of the cooking time.

Baking Soda

There is no good reason to add baking soda to beans.

 

A Simple Pot Of Beans
2 cups pinto beans, rinsed and picked over for debris soaked in 8 cups of salted water for 4 hours to overnight
1 small yellow onion, peeled, small dice (about 3/4 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 TB.)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 bay leaf
[1/2] tsp. fresh ground black pepper

  1. Drain the beans into a colander and strain. Rinse the beans.
  2. Place the beans into a 6 quart (5.51l) or larger pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover the beans by about 1-inch (2.5cm) about 5 or 6 cups.
  3. Add onion, cloves, garlic, salt, bay leaf, and pepper to the pot. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat (traditional)/high(electric).
  4. Lock on the lid, bring the pressure to level 2(traditional)/high (electric). Set a timer for 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. After the time sounds either perform a natural or quick release. Serve or cool and refrigerate beans until needed.
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Grilling: Tips, Skirt Steak and more…

Skirt Steak with Greek Salsa

I use a pair of kitchen tongs and quickly flip a steak, pull back to let my hand cool for a split second before diving in again behind the safety of the tongs to flip another. The hair on my forearm recoils from the heat. Even with a long pair of kitchen tongs I can’t bear the sting of the glowing coals like I used too.

I have lost my commercial kitchen hands. The hands that could take the heat without flinching, the same hands that could grab thermonuclear plates, or could move steaks around on a grill without ever noticing the heat. The heat abused hands that were once this line cooks badge of honor.

The wind shifts, a wisp of white smoke blows back. My eyes catch a little before I can turn and shut them. The smoke underneath my eyelids stings and my eyes begin to water. Continue reading

The Unctuous Possibilities of Pan Juices

Spaghetti with Chicken, Black Olives, Lemon and Au JusWe all know gravy or pan sauce in large quantities might be good for our soul but it isn’t so good for our heart health. After all we are doing nothing more then adding flour or cornstarch to the fat in the bottom of a roasting or sauté pan to thicken it and adding back some stock, wine, or cream for volume. So we have deemed it less healthy which to me means it is an occasional treat and as such we reserve serving gravy for holiday feasts or occasional celebrations, and rightly so.

So why then when I look into the chicken-less roasting pan that held tonights dinner only a short time ago and I see those beautiful glistening juices that are on the edge of coagulating do I feel like I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t get me wrong I am no health nut. In fact I have this beautiful physique that could make me the poster child for a Bittman campaign on obesity. I am sure it goes back to my waste not want not way of thinking. Nevertheless all this made me think. pan jelly

When I make my own stock I always cool it down, put it in the fridge and then the next day I lift the disc of fat off the top. I know the stock is pretty fat free, although I haven’t calculated it and I have know idea how to do so, but it has to be pretty lean and I also know it has very little salt because I didn’t add any. So looking at it in this light I started refrigerating the roasting pan and the next day I remove all the fat cap and what is left is the reduced intensely rich jelly. I use a rubber spatula and scrap all the jelly up and into a small Ball jar. I have already made a plan for its use, did so before I even roasted the pork, beef or chicken, so I know when I store it in the fridge it will be used up in a day or two. I could freeze it but I don’t like to collect things like this and my motto is use it or loose it.

The jelly is infinitely better then bouillon cubes or stock base and can be used in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I like the jelly to have lots of debris(meat bits and spices) and other times I don’t but it is easy to heat and strain, if you need too, just before you want to use it. While you don’t have too I often try to keep in mind the flavors of what I roasted with the flavors of what I am going to make with the pan juices just to make sure they coincide.

Pan juice possibilities:

  • Of course it is always good to use the pan juices in soups.  Added to the broth it can give a flat soup the kick it needs.
  • Pasta or noodles of all kinds.
  • For chicken pan juices:  Make a simple fresh lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper, take a couple big hand fulls of baby Bibb lettuces  and toss it with the dressing.  Just before serving heat the pan juices and drizzle over the salad for a “healthier” wilted salad.
  • For beef:  You could make Grits and debris.  Make a bowl of grits, pour on the warm pan juices and top with a fried egg.
  • For pork:  Ramen noodles.

Pasta with Chicken, Black Olives and Lemon

(serves 4)

12 or 16 ounce box of spaghetti noodles

extra virgin olive oil

half a can of black olives, drained

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken meat

4 cloves of garlic, trimmed, peeled and slivered

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup chicken stock

2 to 3 tablespoons pan juices

1 tablespoon parsley, minced

parmesan cheese

1. Place a large pot filled with 4 quarts of salted water over high heat.

2. While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil place a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add a good glug or two of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the garlic and let it gently cook until it just begins to turn golden, be careful because browned garlic can be very bitter.  Add the white wine and let the alcohol burn off.  Now add the lemon juice, stock and pan juices.  Bring them to a boil and season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Reduce the heat and let the liquid reduce.

3. When the water is at a roiling boil add the spaghetti.  Cook according to the directions on the box, I am guessing 10 minutes or so.  Once the pasta is just tender remove a cup of pasta water and reserve it, drain the pasta and immediately add it to the pan along with the chicken, olives and lemon zest.  Season the pasta with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Taste and make the necessary adjustments.  If it is to dry add a little bit of pasta water.  This is the kind of pasta that should have a broth.  Toss to combine and once the chicken is hot add the parsley toss again and serve with lots of parmesan.

The iPad Stand

Kitchen tip Wednesday
The iPad mini is great to have in the kitchen. Is that the cover for the next issue of FOODQUARTERLY?

I am not perfect and don’t plan to be anytime soon.  I buy to much when I should do with less and I always seem to waste more then I think I should.

I try to do better.

I compost because I have a garden, I use glass cups instead of plastic, I don’t do tupperware,  and my kids use real plates and glass (in 6 years I can count the broken dishes on one hand) and we are trying to go paperless.

As an old dog I understand my bad habits will probably not change, at least not much.  I may become resolute for a week or two about some sort of waste and how we as a family should do better.  Then it seems we slip back into our old routines.  But we have made permanent changes.

One of those changes is to reuse or re-purpose as much as we can.  I got an iPad mini for Christmas.  I have so many charging cords already that a docking station seems pointless but I knew I needed something to keep it off the counter.  After all,  I plan to use it for iBook cookbooks and recipes and didn’t want it easily ruined when drenched by the first spill.

I went to the garage and luckily, in a light bulb moment, I spotted an old round wood cutting board.  It was perfect.  I got out the saw and cut off the end.  Then I cut a slot wide enough for the iPad to fit with a little wiggle room so it would angle back for better reading and, voilá, I have a stand.  It works so good I made three more and have them in different places around the house.

If you are handy, or someone in the family is, you can knock these out in minutes with a saw.

The wonderful thing is, since it is made from a wood cutting board, it fits in nicely with the decor of our house.

Scrub Those Veggies

scrub that shit

Don’t think because the package says it was washed three times that you don’t have too.

I make one assumption when it comes to vegetables.  I assume a herd of cows walked through the veggie patch right before someone picked my food.  Keep in mind cows are not discrete.   Their bathroom is the great wide open and they don’t care t if that bathroom is located on top of your food.  It is buyer beware and it is up to you to wash your vegetables.

My point is, wash that shit.  I know, I know,  you hate how it splatters all over the new white shirt you are wearing or how it always seems to spray over the back of the sink but it doesn’t have too.

Submerge the vegetables underwater and then scrub them!  Seriously, it keeps the dirt and crud from splattering everywhere.

I place a large mixing bowl right under the water, leave the water trickling, then fill the bowl no more then halfway with the potatoes, carrots, beets or whatever root vegetable and it still allows me room to scrub with my hands, the brush and veggie, all submerged.  Also by letting the veggies soak in the bottom of the bowl it loosens the dirt and crud, a prewash so to speak.

I use a baby bottle brush because it washes well in the dishwasher,  I like the design because it makes it easy to get into the crooks and crannies and, finally, because the bristles aren’t so stiff as to take the skin off a potato when scrubbing.   I also use a salad spinner for all kinds of things.  Wash those herbs and give them a spin, broccoli and cauliflower too.

The thing is water and a quick rinse  alone will lessen your chances of any food borne illness.  Give the veggies a soak, scrub and rinse and you can pretty much eliminate the chances.  You don’t need to get fancy with the chemicals either water does a great job, was designed in fact to do this task and does it well all by itself.

Non-Slip Drawer Liners

Non-Slip Drawer Liner

Sure, I know, every chef says you should just wet a kitchen towel and put it under your cutting board, or bowl or whatever you don’t want to slide around.  Well that is easy to say when you have an industrial laundry service and who wants a wet towel sitting under their cutting board anyway.  If it’s a wood cutting board it will warp and then weaken the glue joints.  So here is your new best friend, non-slip drawer lining.

Ever make Hollandaise sauce?  Need an extra hand while whisking the butter into the eggs but no one is around?  Put that non-slip liner under the bowl and you can go hands free.  Why not just get the mixing bowls with the rubber bottoms?  Well, sometimes I have good reason to put my mixing bowls right on the stove over low heat, or I need to make an ad hoc double boiler so the rubber bottom is out of the question for me.

Got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer that likes to walk across the counter.  Keep it from wandering with the non-slip liner.

Keep your couch from dancing around the wood floor every time someone sits down.

Got any other non-slip liner tips?  Post them here.

You can wash the liners by placing them flat in the sink and spraying them off with the sink sprayer or by using a soft sponge.  Hang them over the sink divider to drip dry.

Plastic Dough Scrapers

Plastic Dough Scraper

Plastic dough scrapers make one of the best dirty dish cleaning tools around.  For my pans they are non-scratch, get into the crooks and crannies removing all the stuck on stuff in a jiff.  I always have two on hand just for dirty jobs like getting the ring of crud around the top of a pot knocked loose, or that thin layer of cake stuck to the bottom of the cake pan.  They are bendable, have different shaped edges for different jobs and big enough you can get a good grip on them.  This is a great tool to have when you need it and they are cheap, 99 cents or so.