Instant Pot Chana Masala

February 26, 2020 at 10:58 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Indian, Instant Pot, Website / blog)

Yes, I am on an Instant Pot kick. I bought the pot but still don’t use it for all that much other than cooking beans and (occasionally) breakfast porridge. I really would love to find more Instant Pot recipes that the whole family loves. So I printed out a bunch of recipes and we’ve been working our way through them.

This recipe for Instant Pot Chana Masala is from the blog Spice Cravings. It’s interesting in that it has you cook the dry (but pre-soaked!) chickpeas in just a little water along with the onions, tomatoes, and spices that becomes the gravy. I would have thought you’d need more liquid to cook the beans, and it would come out too soupy. But it worked.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but I wasn’t sure what crushed ginger is. I used minced ginger. I only used 1 seeded green chili, so Alma would eat it. I used the paprika option instead of the Kashmiri red chili powder. I used jarred tomatoes instead of fresh, and maybe 4 or 5 since they were quite small. I didn’t have any fennel so I left that out. (It’s optional in any case.) Finally, I forgot to add the roasted cumin powder at the end. I was also surprised the author says to add the garam masala at the beginning of the cooking. All my other Indian recipes always have you add it at the very end? I decided to be conservative and added it after I opened the instant pot.

Derek and I both really liked this recipe. Derek said it tasted better than most restaurant Chana Masalas. He said it needed spice though, and added cayenne to his bowl.

Alma refused to try the dish. She ate plain chickpeas instead.

It only calls for 1 cup of chickpeas. Next time I’d definitely double the recipe. Derek and I were fighting over the leftovers.

(I’m giving this the same rating as the Tortilla Soup recipe I just blogged, but we actually liked it quite a bit more. But it seems wrong to give it 4 stars after just trying it once.)

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Instant Pot Tortilla Soup

February 23, 2020 at 10:48 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

On the vegetarian Instant Pot Facebook group, this Peas and Crayons recipe for Vegetarian Lentil Tortilla Soup gets rave reviews. It seems like every week I see someone posting it and gushing over it. And it looks good in the photo. So I decided to give it a try. If you have the black and pinto beans cooked already, it’s a pretty quick recipe. You just saute up some onions and peppers, then add the beans and lentils, tomatoes and salsa, corn and spices. I was out of corn so I skipped it, but I did add some sliced corn tortillas, because what kind of tortilla soup doesn’t have tortillas in it?

I was a bit distracted when trying to make this recipe, and I ended up adding the lentils too soon, and some of them stuck to the bottom and were starting to almost burn. So I added the water and gave it a good stir, and figured that would work. But when the Instant Pot almost got up to pressure I got the “Burn” warning and it wouldn’t come to pressure. I let it sit for maybe ten minutes, then quick-released it and try to scrape the bottom of the pot well (but didn’t actually wash it out). I tried to bring it to pressure again and got the same burn warning. Again I let it sit for a while and this time the lentils were cooked enough to eat, even though it never came up to pressure. I think there are some comments on the blog about how to prevent getting the burn warning. I’ll definitely read them next time I try this recipe. (I suspect that the soup was too thick because of the tortillas I added, and I should have added more liquid to compensate.)

Despite never coming to pressure, the soup turned out well, although it tasted nothing like any tortilla soup I’ve ever had. It was more like a thick bean stew, almost like chili, except there wasn’t that much chili powder in it. It was yummy over some corn tortilla chips. I like the idea of making a Mexican bean stew with lentils in it. I don’t usually combine pinto/black beans with lentils. It worked well.

We found the cream unnecessary, especially if you are eating the soup with sour cream. The pickled jalapenos were essential–the soup needed the acid and salt.

Alma wouldn’t try it the night I made it (after I referred to it as tortilla soup), but she did have a little bit when I served it another night (when I just called it “beans”). The wasn’t a big fan though.

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Instant Pot Golden Lentil Soup with Spinach

February 13, 2020 at 10:40 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Dark leafy greens, Instant Pot, Monthly menu plan, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

When we were menu-planning this week, Alma suggested we make lentil soup. But rather than make one of the ten lentil soup recipes on this blog, I decided to try a new one. Someone on my Facebook Instant Pot group said this kitchentreaty recipe for golden lentil and spinach soup is their all-time favorite Instant Pot recipe. And we all liked it, even Alma.

Important caveats: Make more than one recipe, at least 1.5x! Cook the lentils much longer than she says (maybe 17-18 minutes under pressure), and make sure they are cooked before adding the spinach. If they aren’t, cook them under pressure for a few more minutes. You may also need a bit more broth than the recipe calls for.

Update April 1, 2020: 

The second time I made it I made only one recipe and we finished it all at dinner, even though Alma ate barely any of it. I would definitely make more next time. The soup was quite thick. I think it needed more broth. I cooked it for 15 minutes under pressure and even waited a few minutes before releasing the pressure, and still the lentils were undercooked. Alma didn’t like it much this time, I’m not sure why. I didn’t use the parsnip or zucchini. Maybe that was why?

Original Notes from Feb 13, 2020:

The recipe as written says it makes 4 servings, but I wanted to have leftovers so I made 1.5x to make 6 servings.

This recipe is in many ways similar to my Mom’s lentil soup recipe, but it calls for a lot of turmeric (1/2 tablespoon for 6 servings). I liked the combination of turmeric, thyme, and cumin.

When I started to prep the veggies for the recipe I discovered I only had one carrot left, so I used one carrot and one parsnip and one zucchini. I couldn’t actually taste the parsnip in the final soup. I was also perhaps a bit low on celery, since Alma snacked on some of the celery I was saving for the soup. I didn’t want the zucchini to turn to mush, so I cooked it separately while the soup was cooking. I quickly sauteed up the finely diced zucchini and we threw the zucchini in the soup right before serving it. I liked the extra texture the zucchini added, but it didn’t add much in terms of flavor. I think I could leave it out next time. We served the soup with goat yogurt, which everyone enjoyed.

For 6 servings the recipe calls for 12 ounces of spinach, which is 340 grams. I think I’d actually use a bit more, maybe even a pound. I’d add half on the first day, and save the other half of the spinach for the leftovers, so that the spinach is freshly cooked and not sitting around in the fridge for days then getting reheated.

My one complaint with the recipe is that my lentils were not at all cooked after 12 minutes under high pressure + quick release. I think they needed more like 14 or 15 minutes maybe? I did make 1.5 times the recipe, but if anything I would think that would mean I need to cook it for less time, not more, since it would take longer to come to pressure?

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How to make a stir fry

February 4, 2020 at 9:39 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan, Other)

I’ve always been terrible at stir-frying. You can see many of my previous stir-fry posts for evidence. When I try to wing it, it just doesn’t taste right. And when I try to follow a recipe, most of the time the result is disastrous. I’ve tried many recipes for “stir-fry sauces” over the years and they are almost always terrible, or full of processed store-bought sauces with very strange unpronounceable ingredients. So when one of Derek’s students made us a pretty yummy stir-fry , I asked him to come over and show me how to make it. It was a while ago now, so I’ve probably forgotten part of what I learned, but I’m going to try to record my lessons here.

  1. Tofu: He had me boil the tofu briefly, and it made the texture spongier and more absorbent, a bit more like frozen tofu.  He also had me cut the tofu into huge cubes, but Derek said I should cut them smaller next time. I just pan-fried them in my cast iron skillet the same way I usually do.
  2. Seasoning: We minced a lot of garlic and added some thinly sliced shallots. We also chopped up some cilantro, although I got some grief for getting the wrong (apparently not so flavorful) kind. That was it for seasoning, other than salt and soy sauce. We started by heating my 12-inch stainless steel skillet on high (as high as my oven goes, on the largest burner). When quite hot, we added quite a small amount of oil (1 tsp?) to it, then immediately threw in most (but not all) of the garlic and scallions. After a few seconds we added the slowest cooking vegetable (in our case carrots).
  3. Amounts and timing: We had to make two batches to have enough for all four of us (3 adults + Alma). But I was surprised at how quick it was to make the second batch, especially since we used all the carrots (the slowest veggie) in the first batch. The second batch (with pre-steamed broccoli and other quick cooking vegetables) just took a couple of minutes to make. I think if I was just cooking for Derek and Alma and myself, I could make one batch for dinner and a second batch to have “leftovers” for lunch the next day.
  4. Carrots: We had to add water to the pan in small amounts to get the carrots to cook not burn. Whenever the pan started to brown a bit we added some water.
  5. Broccoli: He said broccoli is a bit tricky, so we steamed it first, until it was almost cooked, and then we added it once the carrots were almost done cooking. That worked well and the final texture came out pretty good.
  6. Mushrooms: He said that the criminis I got weren’t so good for stir-fry, and shiitakes would be better. I think we added the mushrooms too soon, as they ended up a tad overcooked. I think they actually take less time than bell peppers.
  7. Bell peppers: These we cut into quite large pieces and added around the same time as the broccoli.
  8. Salt and soy sauce: We seasoned a bit as we went. I thought the soy sauce would burn since the pan was so hot but it didn’t seem to. He wanted me to taste it as we went for seasoning, but I didn’t want to. I hate tasting food before it’s done. I know, bad, bad cook.
  9. Final seasoning: When all the veggies were just about cooked we threw in the cooked tofu and the rest of the garlic/scallion mixture, along with the chopped cilantro. I was surprised at how tasty it ended up given that there was almost no oil and essentially no sauce.
  10. Cashews: He said they never put cashews in stir-fry, but we like them so I threw a bunch in the oven on low before we started cooking. They were nicely browned by the time the stirfry was ready, and Derek and Alma and I all thought they made a very tasty addition.
  11. Ginger and chilies: There was no ginger in our stirfry, but I missed it. The next time I made a stirfy I julienned some ginger into very thin batons and added them with the garlic and scallions. That way Alma could pick them out. I also ate my stir-fry with some Sambal Olek. I missed some spice.

Other veggies to try: bok choy, bean sprouts, snow peas, green beans, ???

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Millet sweet corn fritters

November 14, 2019 at 12:05 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Grains, Website / blog) ()

I was looking for some new recipes to eat with beans for breakfast, and I decided to try this recipe for millet sweet corn fritters from Naturally Ella. We eat millet porridge for breakfast sometimes, but other than that I don’t make millet too often because Derek is not a fan of the texture. But in this recipe it’s ground up with corn and pan-fried, so I figured he wouldn’t mind it.

Unfortunately, life happened and I didn’t manage to follow the recipe all that well. I used frozen corn, maybe a bit more than a cup. I made more millet than I needed because I wanted to have extra, and then Alma ate some as an appetizer, and I wasn’t sure how much of the cooked millet I was supposed to add. I think I ended up using less cooked millet than I was supposed to, I used the whole egg, didn’t measure the cheese, and didn’t have any chives. Also, I didn’t realize until the last minute that you’re supposed to puree the whole thing in the food processor. I didn’t want to get my big food processor dirty so I tried to do it in my mini one. Eh. That didn’t work so well. Nor did I get a chance to make the harissa yogurt sauce, although that does sound good. Nonetheless, despite my failures, everyone liked the fritters. They tasted more like corn than millet, but the millet and millet flour made them really thick and starchy and satisfying. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables and/or beans and seeing if they still stick together. Black beans and red bell pepper maybe? Then I could make the batter in advance and just fry up the fritters for a one-stop breakfast.

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Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

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Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes

August 18, 2019 at 10:31 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

I know I’ve tried making zucchini pancakes before, but I can’t find anything about it on my blog. Weird. My memory is that the zucchini pancakes I’ve made in the past were fine, but not exciting. But then Dreena Burton posted a new recipe for vegan zucchini fritters that sounded easy and like something Alma would like. Plus I had a big bag of zucchinis in the fridge and some chickpea flour to use up. Perfect.

Here’s my current recipe, as of September 28, 2019

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of grated zucchini, about 1 large zucchini or 3 small zucchinis (do not peel, just trim ends; use large hole of a standard cheese grater)
  • 1 Tbs. of tahini (14g)
  • 1 Tbs. of lemon juice (15g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 Tbs. oil (for pan-frying)

Instructions:

  1. Grate the zucchini into a large bowl. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and one egg and mix the three together in a corner of the bowl. Sprinkle the salt, cumin seeds, black pepper, scallions, and cilantro over the zucchini and mix everything together well. Add the buckwheat flour and chickpea flour and mix again until the batter is uniform in texture. Allow mixture to sit for at least 10 minutes, so that the flours absorb all the zucchini’s moisture. Do not taste the batter! (Raw chickpea flour–bleh!)
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add a 1/2 tsp. of oil and turn the heat to medium-low. Immediately add the zucchini batter to the pan. Use a small ice cream scoop to drop several small balls onto the pan. (The exact number will depend on how large you make the balls.) Use a spatula to flatten them. When golden brown on the first side, flip them and cook them until golden brown on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up.
  3. Serve with dal.

Original notes form Aug 18, 2019:

I grated my zucchinis, but then when I went to get the chickpea flour I realized I only had about half a cup left, not the 3/4 cup to 1 cup the recipe calls for. So I added another 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour plus one egg, in case the buckwheat flour didn’t bind as well as the chickpea flour. The original recipe is vegan and oil-free, but mine ended up non-vegan (because of the egg) and with oil (since I added a little oil in the pan that I was frying them in). I also didn’t have any dill seed, so I added 1/4 tsp. cumin seed. It’s not much, but I could definitely taste the cumin seed. I didn’t love the way the flavor worked with the zucchini, until I added some fresh cilantro to the batter. Yes. Much better. I thought Alma might complain since she usually doesn’t like cilantro, but she was so enamored of her ketchup that I think I could have put jalapenos in and she wouldn’t have noticed. The recipe also calls for 3 to 4 Tbsp. scallions or chives. I used scallions and I think I could have used even more than the recipe calls for—maybe 1/2 a cup? Alma certainly didn’t complain about the ones that were in there.

I had a little extra zucchini left and ended up throwing it in the batter at the end. It didn’t seem to make a difference (maybe because of the egg?).

I ate my fritters dipped in a (not-yet-seasoned) mung and red lentil dal. The dal didn’t have any spices in it yet, just turmeric, salt, and a little yogurt. It made a delicious dipping sauce, but Alma wouldn’t try it. (It couldn’t compete with ketchup.)

I think this recipe would make a great breakfast, especially if you use dal as your dipping sauce. You’d just have to make the batter up the night before, then leave it in the fridge. It would make a pretty fast and filling breakfast with some vegetables and beans (of a sort).

Update Sept 2019: I made these again with one large zucchini. Grated it weighed 17 ounces and was about 3 cups of tightly packed zucchini. I added the full cup of chickpea flour and 1 egg. But no buckwheat flour this time. Instead of cumin seed I tried 1/4 tsp. fennel seed. I added 1/4 cup (loosely packed) scallions but it didn’t look like enough so I doubled it to 1/2 cup, but it still didn’t look like that much, so I added a bit more. The scallions weighed 1 ounce.

The pancake texture wasn’t as nice as last time — more doughy than zucchini maybe? I think it was too much chickpea flour. And I didn’t care for the fennel seeds. Alma still happily ate them with ketchup and Derek said he loved the lunch (again I served them with dal). But I was less excited than last time. I definitely missed the cilantro flavor.

Update Sept 28, 2019: I made these again with 3 small to medium zucchinis. Grated they weighed 17 ounces. This time I went back to 1/4 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup chickpea flour and 1 egg, 1/4 tsp. cumin seed, lots of scallions (forgot measure), and some cilantro. Derek agreed they were better than the last batch, and loved them with the over salted dal I pulled out of the freezer. Alma ate them happily with ketchup, but pooh poohed the dal. She ate hers with a side of soybeans instead.

Derek’s rating (with dal): A-/B+

My rating (with dal): B+

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Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

August 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Winter recipes)

I tried making risotto in the instant pot a few months ago, and I got distracted and forgot to release the pressure immediately after it was done cooking. The result: mush. It tasted good but the texture was awful. Derek wouldn’t touch it. But I finally got up the nerve to try it again.

Alma and I looked at various combinations in the book Vegan Under Pressure and she chose the spinach risotto, but then I forgot to buy spinach and had some mushrooms to use up, so I decided to make the mushroom risotto instead. (Sorry Alma.) I didn’t really follow the Vegan Under Pressure recipe, but I did use it for inspiration. Below I list my recipe, and explain how it diverges from Jill Nussinow’s.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely diced or 1.5 cups finely chopped leek (original recipe calls for 1 cup diced leek)
  • 8 oz (425g) crimini mushrooms, half chopped and the other half sliced (original recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups sliced)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice (original recipe calls for 1.5 cups)
  • 1/2 to 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, not soaked (original recipe called for 1/2 ounce soaked, but more doesn’t hurt)
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, unsoaked, torn or cut into pieces (original recipe calls for 3 to 4, rehydrated)
  • 1 Tbs. porcini mushroom powder
  • 5.5 cups veggie broth (original recipe calls for 3.5 to 4 cups)
  • 1 (or 2?) tsp. veggie bouillon powder + salt to taste
  • a big knob of butter, maybe a tablespoon or two?
  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • 8 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (original recipe calls for 3 Tbs.)

Instructions:

  1. Prep: Mince the garlic. Chop the onion or leek. Let the garlic and onion sit while you wash and slice the mushrooms. If you need to defrost vegetable broth, do it now.
  2. Saute: Set the instant pot to saute. When hot, add the olive oil and onion and saute for a few minutes. While the onion is sauteing, measure out your rice, your mushroom powder, and your dried mushrooms. When the onion is translucent add the garlic and saute another minute or two. Stir in the rice to coat with oil, then add a quarter cup of red wine (if using). When the wine has mostly evaporated add the vegetable broth.
  3. Next, add the dried porcini mushrooms, crushing them into small pieces with your hands as you drop them into the pot. Add the the sun-dried tomatoes, using scissors to slice each one into about 4 pieces as I drop them into the pot. Finally, add the sliced fresh mushrooms and the bouillon powder.
  4. Cook: Lock on the lid. Cook at high pressure for 2 minutes 40 seconds. (You’ll have to set a timer as soon as the Instant Pot comes to pressure, as it only allows whole minutes). As soon as the  timer goes off, immediately release the pressure. (Don’t get distracted! You do not want to leave it any longer than this!) Immediately (and carefully) remove the lid.
  5. Adjust: If the risotto is not cooked through all the way, add a little more boiling hot broth and leave on saute for another few minutes, but make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the rice is al dente, stir in more stock as needed to get a creamy texture, then stir in the butter and parmesan if desired. Season with salt and pepper, and add a touch of lemon juice if you like.
  6. Garnish: Serve with fresh parsley and more parmesan cheese.

My notes:

Timing: Nussinow’s recipe says to cook under pressure for 5 minutes, but I was nervous about getting mush again, so I decided to start with 3 minutes. And 3 minutes was definitely enough. Derek said it might be worth trying 2.5 minutes next time. And this was with almost boiling vegetable stock. If your stock is not hot, I imagine you’d need even less time under pressure, since it will take longer to come to pressure. Maybe next time I will start with ice cold broth and try 2.5 minutes.

On a second attempt I used warm (not hot) broth and cooked it for 2.5 minutes and it was definitely not cooked through. I had to saute quite a bit and it ended up burning on the bottom. On a third attempt I released slightly before the 3 minutes were up and it still wasn’t cooked (but the brand of rice was different). Maybe the right approach is to use almost boiling broth and cook under pressure for 3 minutes?

It took me about 4 minutes of venting for the pressure to drop completely, even with the quick release. At that point the risotto was cooked well, but quite dry. I had to add more than a cup of broth after I opened it up to get the right consistency.

I forgot to time how long it took to come to pressure. I think it took somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes? So maybe 5-10 minutes + 3 minutes + 4 minutes + a few minutes to stir in the broth and butter and parmesan and serve it. So once you get do your prep, saute the onions, add all the ingredients, and get the lid on the pot it seems like the risotto would be ready approximately 15 to 20 minutes after you press start? But that time is almost entirely hands off. It’s definitely an improvement over stovetop risotto in my book.

Dried mushrooms: I didn’t have real dried porcini mushrooms, so instead I used some local French mushrooms from the farmer’s market. The man who gathered them and sold them to me told me that they’re cheaper than porcinis but taste similar.

Rehydrating the vegetables: Nussinow has you soak the porcinis and tomatoes to rehydrate them, but I figured if the rice can go from rock hard to soft in the pressure cooker in 3 minutes, then shouldn’t the vegetables be able to do the same? I skipped the soaking step and it worked out fine. Maybe I needed a bit more broth though.

Review: Everyone liked this recipe. Alma scarfed it up, which shocked me because she’s never eaten more than one bite of risotto before, and when we were looking at recipes she was dead set against the mushroom variation. Derek and I both enjoyed it as well. Now I want to try some of the other variations, like the spring saffron risotto with peas and asparagus, the summer risotto with green beans and tomatoes, or the winter squash and kale risotto. Yum.

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Chickpea flour crepes with tofu “ricotta” and roasted spring vegetables

June 3, 2019 at 10:23 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Peter Berley, Spring recipes, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I made this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook Modern Vegetarian Kitchen (pg. 264) last night for dinner and really enjoyed it. I am usually lazy when it comes to asparagus and just make it plain (either roasted or pan-steamed), but I really wanted to try one of the 10-million asparagus recipes in my cookbooks before asparagus season is over.

I picked this one because I thought Alma (at 4.25 years) might like it, since she likes asparagus and pancakes and tofu and will often eat shiitake mushrooms. In the end, however, she wouldn’t try the tofu (presumably because it is mixed with herbs). She ate her first crepe happily with just asparagus and shiitakes, and her second one with just asparagus. Then she asked for something else. So I’d say it was a mild preschooler success.

Unlike Alma, I loved the dish. It hit the spot and I found it very satisfying. I liked the combination of the salty, sour lemon-y tofu with the savory roasted veggies. The crepes themselves didn’t have much flavor, but they were a good delivery device for the veggies and tofu.

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 3.5 cups cold water (I used 3 cups water + 2 eggs)
  • 2 Tbs. light sesame oil (I used 1 Tbs. olive oil, but none on the pan to cook the crepes)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (I used 1/4 tsp. table salt)

For the tofu:

  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (I used a bit more)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I used around 1 or 1.5 Tbs. I think)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped mixed herbs (I used a bit more, mostly chives, rosemary, and parsley, with a bit of marjoram. Next time I’d like to add basil and/or oregano or thyme.)
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 6 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 4 Tbs. and it was sour enough for me)
  • freshly milled black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and saved for another dish
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled) (I used a 500g bunch, so more than double)
  • 2 bunches scallions (I used 3 large spring onions, they were delicious, except for the ends that burned)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (I didn’t measure, just used enough to lightly coat all the veggies)
  • salt

The instructions say to strain the crepe batter through a sieve. I skipped this step. Maybe my crepes were a bit lumpier than intended? I think by making the crepe batter a few hours ahead of time, all the lumps had time to hydrate and dissolve?

The tofu is basically raw, but you do saute the garlic and herbs in the olive oil for a minute, just to tone down the garlic and incorporate the herb flavors into the oil a bit.

Berley says to fill the crepes with the tofu filling, top with the roasted vegetables, roll them up, and serve. But I just put everything on the table and let everyone fill their own crepes.

The three of us ate all the veggies, about 2/3 of the tofu, and only about half of the crepe mix. So if we were going to make this again I’d either make less crepe batter or more veggies and tofu.

I wonder if there is a way to give the crepes more flavor. Maybe more chickpea flour and less wheat flour? Or incorporate some herbs into the crepes themselves?

This was a lovely dish for Spring, but I think it might be nice in the autumn or winter too, but I’m not sure what would be a good replacement for the asparagus. Winter squash? Carrots?

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Instant Pot Lasagna Soup

February 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Instant Pot, Italian, Menus, Monthly menu plan, One pot wonders, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

I am a member of the Instant Pot Vegan Recipe group on Facebook, and almost every week someone raves about this recipe for Lasagna Soup from Vegan Richa. I like lasagna, but it always takes so long to make. A fast version in the pressure cooker? Sounds good to me!

I’ve made the recipe a couple of times now, with a few modifications (see below). The recipe is pretty fast. You basically just have to chop the onions and other veggies and measure out all the ingredients. Everyone liked it pretty well (even 4-year-old Alma who is normally very suspicious of new “mixed” dishes and Derek who typically disdains soup). It’s surprising how filling it is given that it only calls for 5 ounces of noodles for 2 to 3 servings.  Normally Derek alone will eat at least 4 ounces of noodles! The first time I made it I think we even had a little bit of leftovers! I guess the lentils and veggies and broth make it filling. Read the rest of this entry »

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Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad

February 9, 2019 at 10:08 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Middle East / N. Africa, Salads, Website / blog) ()

A friend suggested I try this Vegetarian Times recipe for a Moroccan Spiced Millet and Lentil Salad, but I was nervous about making it since Derek normally hates millet. I will never forget the time he took a bite of millet and then made a terrible, disgusted grimace “What have you done to the rice?” he asked. “This is the worst rice ever!”

So I waited until he was out of town this summer and then I invited my friend over to make it with me. We made a somewhat deconstructed version of the salad, and other than the fact that I totally overcooked the millet, everyone enjoyed it. Alma (at 3.5) also really liked it. Finally last weekend I got up the nerve to make it for Derek and he liked it as well. He didn’t even complain about the fact that I was serving him birdseed for dinner. Score! Read the rest of this entry »

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How to roast jerusalem artichokes

November 3, 2018 at 10:42 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan)

I’m adding a brief post here because I keep forgetting how I roast sunchokes, and then I have to do a search all over again.

I basically follow the directions from Brad Farmerie, chef at Public and Saxon + Parole in NYC. He says that there’s no need to peel them. You just need to rinse them and cut them into finger-sized pieces, then blanch them for four minutes in heavily salted water. Toss them in olive oil and roast them in a 450 F oven until they’re soft and gooey on the inside and roasted crisp on the outside.

I don’t quite understand why, but he says that blanching them actually makes them crispier? In any case, we’ve tried it this way, and always like it. And I agree that trying to peel jerusalem artichokes is torture.

Update Dec 2019: Derek and Alma (at almost 5 years old) both love jerusalem artichokes cooked this way. I made roasted vegetables this week with carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, and jerusalem artichokes, and the jerusalem artichokes were the first to go.

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Chard parsnip patties

October 10, 2018 at 3:44 am (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Root vegetables, Website / blog)

I had both chard and parsnips from our CSA a few weeks ago and decided to try a new recipe. I decided to try this recipe for chard and parsnip patties, since the author says her kids like them, and I was hoping that Alma might like them. They have a bit of flour and cheese, but mostly the patties are just veggies.

The first time I made the recipe I had a really hard time getting the patties to stick together. I think I didn’t chop the chard up finely enough. I ended up doubling the flour to get them to stick together at all, and still it was a challenge getting them to form into patties. The recipe says the chard should be “chopped” but I think it really needs to be more minced. The second time I made the recipe I used my food processor to mince the chard  and it worked much better. I also used the food processor for the onions and garlic, and to grate the parsnips.

Derek and I thought the patties were really tasty. I could taste both the parsnip and the chard well. The only problem was that I used quite a bit of oil to cook them. Also, Alma wouldn’t eat them. Maybe because of the cilantro? The second time I tried dividing the mixture into two halves and making one big “pancake/hashbrown” in my cast iron skillet. It was certainly much faster, but it didn’t get as nicely crispy and browned. But Alma ate them the second time around—not sure why.

This is definitely a recipe I would like to keep playing around with, especially in the autumn when we’re getting lots of chard from our CSA.

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Simple chard or turnip green quiche

October 8, 2018 at 10:52 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Website / blog)

Tonight I made a chard quiche, roughly following a Martha Stewart recipe, except instead of making her homemade chard-crust I just used a store-bought quiche crust. Everyone liked it. Alma was especially enthusiastic.

The crust wasn’t great, but was okay. I have to either find a better one to buy or learn how to make one myself. I greased the pie pan with butter first and cooked the quiche at the temperature the crust said on the package for about 45 minutes. I didn’t pre-cook the crust, and the bottom ended up soggy. But Derek and Alma said they liked the soggy crust. I did not. Is there any way to get it to not be soggy? Pre-baking it? Putting something down before the filling? Moving the crust from the bottom layer to the top layer?

This is the recipe I roughly followed. (Update: Since I originally posted this entry the recipe has disappeared, so I’ve copied it here for safekeeping.)

Ingredients for crust:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 3/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt + freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced

Ingredients for the quiche:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 8 ounces Swiss chard (1/2 large bunch), leaves chopped, stems minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (2 ounces)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground mustard powder

Instructions for the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside. In a medium skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium. Add half the chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until chard wilts and releases liquid. Wipe skillet, set aside.
  2. Add the cooked chard to the flour mixture and mix with fork to incorporate. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate; firmly press mixture into bottom and up the side of pan. Bake until golden and firm, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Instructions for the filling:

  1. In a medium skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 8 ounces of chard to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer chard mixture to a colander. Press firmly with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Top prepared crust with chard mixture and cheese; place on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, nutmeg, mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Pour custard over chard mixture. Bake until custard is set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

My notes:

I used 8 ounces of red chard leaves (a few of the very skinny stems, but probably at most an ounce). I didn’t notice the chard stems in the final dish. I sliced them very thin and cooked them with the onion. I think next time I could use a bit more stems.

I used the cup of whole milk and 4 (German large) eggs.

I didn’t have gruyere so I used 2 ounces of parmesan grated + 1.25 ounces of some soft tangy cheese from the biofrischmarkt. I used the full amount of salt in the mixture plus some in the chard. The quiche tasted good but I think it was too salty, probably because I used fine and not coarse salt. Next time I’d cut the salt down a tad.

I used pepper and nutmeg but was out of ground mustard. I would add a bit more nutmeg next time, as I couldn’t really taste it.

The recipe says it serves 6, but we actually almost 7 pieces out. We were all hungry and had almost 2 pieces each for lunch. (Alma and I had small pieces for seconds.) There were 3 medium sized pieces left, which we will reheat for breakfast.

Update Feb 9, 2019:

Made this kale quiche recipe from Naturally Ella today. I only had 1.5 cups of milk but still I think it would have been way too much filling for my normal pie crust. I ended up using my larger enameled pan, but then there wasn’t as much crispy crust sticking out 😦

I didn’t love it, but I was out of cheddar. I used a little mozzarella and a lot of parmesan. It was a tad boring I thought. Derek said it was very good. He said the texture was more like quiche than the chard quiche recipe.

Update May 8, 2019:

I had a ton of Rübstiel from my CSA to use up, and wasn’t sure what to do with it. It seems that it’s basically baby turnip greens with lots of stems. I found this recipe for Rübstielkuchen, which is basically a quiche. So I decided to adapt the chard quiche recipe above to use the turnip greens instead.

The German recipe calls for a tart pan with a 26cm diameter, which is much larger than my pie plate.

For comparison, it calls for

original recipe x 2 german recipe
8 eggs 4 eggs
1 onion 2 onions
1 pound chard (454g) 500g of Stielmus
2 cups whole milk (500 ml) 150 ml milk + 250 ml cream + 100g creme fraiche
4 ounces (113g) grated gruyere cheese 100g gruyere cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. olive oil 1 (German) teaspoon of oil
1 tsp. salt + 1/4 tsp. black pepper salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches ground nutmeg + 2 pinches ground mustard powder

I used just over a pound of turnip greens combined with the turnip stems, but only 1/2 an onion. I used 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, no creme fraiche, and 3 ounces (85g) comte, plus 1/2 tsp. fine salt and two pinches of nutmeg and some black pepper.

The quiche was quite tasty, but it was quite full and it didn’t hold together great. Also the bottom crust ended up super soggy. Maybe I should have squeezed the liquid out of the greens? Or maybe it was just too much greens for that much milk eggs/dairy? I thought the chard recipe above also called for 1 pound of chard, but I forgot that half of it goes in the crust. I’ve updated it above to make it clearer what goes in the crust and what goes in the filling.

Everyone loved the quiche, probably because it was quite salty and very rich. Alma had 3 (small) pieces and asked for another one. Derek and I talked about how we also wanted more because it’s so tasty, but we would probably get a stomachache if we ate more. We all decided to save our last piece for the morning. Of course, the next morning Alma wasn’t interested. She gave her piece to Derek and asked for oatmeal instead.

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Instant Pot Refried Beans

June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

I used to make refried beans on the stovetop, but now that I’ve gotten an Instant Pot I wanted to figure out how to make them in the electric pressure cooker instead. I started with this recipe for creamy-dreamy pinto beans from Julie and Kittee, but I changed a few things.

First of all, if I’m going to the trouble of making refries I’m going to want to use more than 2 cups of dry pintos! I figured the maximum that would fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot would be 4 cups, so I doubled the recipe. Also, I wanted to take out some of the beans as whole beans before making refries, so I soaked my beans overnight and reduced the cooking time, so that the beans would come out soft but not falling apart. Then I tweaked the seasoning a bit. Below is my modified recipe.

These days I usually serve my refries with salsa and homemade plantain chips. Alma, at 3.5 years, is a big fan. I’ll try to add a post about how I make the plantain chips next. Read the rest of this entry »

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The best pesto, and sore arms

June 17, 2018 at 9:13 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cooking tips, Italian, Sauce/dressing, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

I got a ton of fresh basil from my CSA this week, so I decided to make pesto. I followed this “best pesto” recipe from Serious Eats. Wow was it hard work! I like that it gives the amount of basil leaves by weight, but the recipe did not prepare me for how much work it would be. It took a huge amount of effort to grind all those basil leaves down by hand. Maybe it was because I was using a big thai mortar and pestle instead of the little white (marble?) one they show in the video? By the end I could barely grip the mortar any more. And I never did get my basil leaves as fine as they show in their photos. The pesto did taste really good though (even though I didn’t have any Fiore Sardo, and used all parmesan, and left out the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil).

Alma tasted the pesto but wouldn’t eat it. I froze the bulk of it in two small glass jars.

I have more basil. I might try making the same recipe in the food processor, and see how different it tastes to me. Maybe I’ll even freeze my basil overnight first.

I’m out of pine nuts though. Maybe I’ll try making the next batch of pesto with sunflower seeds instead? Or maybe I’ll just freeze my basil (in oil?) and save it in the freezer for some other recipe.

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Amaranth porridge with blueberry sauce

May 27, 2018 at 11:24 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

About once a month I make this recipe from Naturally Ella for Blueberries ‘n’ Cream Amaranth Porridge. Derek won’t eat it, but Alma and I like it a lot. Amaranth has a somewhat odd sticky, grainy texture, but the addition of the creamy blueberry sauce helps transform it into more of a traditional tasting breakfast porridge.

I usually make it on the weekend, since it takes about 30 minutes to make. I always make extra amaranth and freeze it for a quick mid-week breakfast. Here’s how I cook the amaranth.

In a 2-quart pot, soak 1.5 cups of amaranth overnight. In the morning, drain the amaranth, and return it to the pot with 3 cups of water and three pinches of salt. Bring the amaranth to a boil, turn the heat as low as it will go, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 more minutes. Stir to mix in the extra water on the top of the amaranth.

Alternately, I’ve had success making amaranth in my instant pot electric pressure cooker. Lasttime I tried 1 cup of amaranth with 2 cups of water on high pressure for 3 minutes + natural release. It came out well, although it was sitting on keep warm for about an hour. Alma and I ate more than 2/3 of it for breakfast, so next time I’d try 2 cups of amaranth with 3.75 cups of water for 3 minutes + NR. I’m also curious to try a pot-in-pot method, so I don’t have to clean the large insert, but I suspect the cooking time will go up.

To make the blueberry sauce I follow the original recipe but cut the maple syrup down a tad and use vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean:

  • 1 cup blueberries (I always use frozen, I wouldn’t waste fresh in this dish!)
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup (or 1 ripe pear, see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream (I haven’t tried coconut milk yet)
  • pinch of salt

Note: I’ve also left the maple syrup out and added a ripe pear to the sauce. Once I just finely diced it (with skin on) and let it simmer with the blueberries. Another time I had a bunch of overripe pears and I cooked them into pear puree first (simmering them then pureeing them with my stick blender). I then used the puree in the blueberry sauce. Alma and I enjoyed both versions.

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Beluga lentil and beet salad with walnuts

May 27, 2018 at 11:03 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Instant Pot, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Salads, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

This is not really a recipe so much as a dinner idea. I basically serve beluga lentils and sliced cooked beets on a bed of salad greens, and drizzle with Annie’s dressing. If I have extra time I will roast some walnuts or pepitas to sprinkle on top. Occasionally we will skip the Annie’s and use feta instead.

I make this at least once a month, and everyone is always happy. When I tell Alma (at 3 years old) what we’re having for dinner, she says “oh, yum, I like that.” Derek is less excited about the idea (it sounds too boring) but once he actually eats it he’s always happy. I like it too. Plus it’s relatively easy to make and can be (mostly) frozen for a quick weeknight meal. Both the lentils and beets freeze well, as does Annie’s dressing. So all I have to do is pull out all the frozen components the night before, and then wash some salad greens.

I usually cook up a big batch of beluga lentils in my instant pot (see below for details). If you don’t have one, you could use a stovetop pressure cooker or just make them in a pan. I always make extra and freeze the leftovers in a glass jar.

I also usually cook beets in the instant pot. Roasted may be tastier, but the instant pot is so much easier and more reliable. Sometimes I am in a rush and then I buy the pre-cooked beets that are in every German supermarket. But they don’t taste as good as the ones I cook myself.

How to cook beets in the Instant Pot

Here are the instructions I used. My beets were big — just under 3 inches in diameter — so I cooked them for 20 minutes on high pressure. They came out perfectly—super easy to peel and the texture and flavor were great. In the past when I’ve boiled, steamed, or baked my beets, I’ve always had trouble getting them cooked consistently and getting the peels to come off easily. So this was a nice change of pace.

Here is her time chart with general guidelines (assuming 1 cup of water and quick release not natural release):

  • <2-inch diameter: 10 minutes under high pressure
  • 2-inch diameter: 15 minutes under high pressure
  • 2 to 3-inch diameter: 20 minutes under high pressure
  • >3-inch diameter: 25-30 minutes under high pressure

How to make beluga lentils in the Instant Pot.

I usually use a pot-in-pot method to cook lentils in the instant pot. I put 1.5 cups of water in the base of the instant pot, then put down the trivet and insert my small (3 quart) instant pot base. I fill it with 500g beluga lentils, 900g of water, and 1 tsp. of salt. I cook the lentils on manual (high pressure) for 12 minutes plus natural pressure release. It’s best to let the lentils cool a bit after opening the lid, because if you are scoop them when they’re still really hot they just turn to mush. Note: Next time try 500g lentils, 825g of water and 10 minutes plus natural release! I think 825g is 3.625 cups of water and 500g is about 2.6 cups, so this is not quite 1.5x water, more like 1.4x.

I have also tried setting the lentils up in the morning before work, and setting the timer so that the lentils would be done at dinnertime. Since the lentils would be soaking all day I lowered the cooking time, maybe to 5 minutes? I think it worked fine, but I’m not positive. I also don’t recall how long before dinner I set the start time. Maybe 10 minutes to come to pressure, 5 minutes to cook, and 15 minutes for pressure to come down, so 30 minutes before dinnertime?

If you don’t have the 3-quart insert, you can cook the lentils directly in the large 6-quart base. Jill Nussinow says to cook them with 1.5x water for 6 to 7 minutes plus natural release. But others say 2x water and still others say only 4 minutes natural pressure release. I tried a couple of different ways, but I was never happy with how they turned out. Unfortunately I didn’t keep notes. but I generally found that the lentils cooked unevenly. The ones on the bottom end up overcooked and the ones on the top end up underdone. If you have a a 7-cup pyrex bowl you could use that, but then 500g lentils will likely be too much, causing your bowl to overflow during cooking. Maybe 450g (1 pound) lentils and 800g water would fit? I’ve also heard that some people soak the lentils overnight and then cook them in the instant pot in a steamer basket. I haven’t tried it that way yet.

Also a note on cooking regular (greenish/brownish) lentils in the instant pot. Last time I did 2:1 water to lentils (by weight not volume, so a bit less than 2:1 by volume) in the main pot. I think I cooked them on high pressure for 5 minutes and released pressure after about 15 minutes, but the pressure was just about up. They came out not bad, but a tad unevenly cooked. I think next time I will try using the pot-in-pot method instead.

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Toddler-approved hummus

January 27, 2018 at 10:07 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Middle East / N. Africa, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog) ()

Alma likes storebought hummus, but never likes my regular homemade hummus. So I decided to try a new recipe. I did a google search and picked this random recipe for “Better than Storebought” hummus from www.inspiredtaste.net  I chose it because it had over 700 reviews and an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Plus it’s a relatively simple recipe, with a slightly different technique than I usually use. It has you blend the tahini and lemon juice first, before adding the chickpeas.

I doubled the recipe:

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 3 cups (500 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) water
  • Dash of ground paprika, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more, until the tahini is whipped, smooth, and creamy.
  2. Add the garlic, cumin, and salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Add half of the (drained) chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Keep adding bean cooking liquid 1 or 2 Tbsp. at a time, until the hummus is the desired consistency.

I think I followed the recipe pretty closely. I added a tad more than 3 cups of chickpeas (maybe 530g?) and a little more lemon, and used the bean cooking liquid to thin it out instead of water. I also put in only about half the cumin, just in case it would cause Alma to not like it.

The hummus came out well. Derek loved it. He said it was bright and creamy and perfect. Alma wouldn’t eat it on carrot sticks, but did deign to eat it on spelt crackers. And a few days later she ate it happily on cucumbers! I liked it. It doesn’t taste like storebought, but it was yummy. I’d make it again. I might use slightly more tahini and less olive oil.

Update as of Feb 25, 2018:

I cut out the olive oil and cumin, and added more tahini than last time. I made a double batch:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (122g)
  • 1 cup tahini (227g)
  • 4 garlic cloves (mine weighed around 7g, but I think 12g would be more average)
  • 1.25 tsp. salt
  • 4 cup salted chickpeas (should have been about 656g, but mine weighed 725g)
  • about 7 Tbs. bean juice (I used 111g)

I first added the lemon juice and tahini to the food processor until fluffy. Then added the garlic and salt, then the chickpeas, and finally the bean juice. I thought it wasn’t quite as tasty as my last batch, but I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe a tad too thick? Needed a little bit more liquid maybe?

It made about 5.5 cups maybe? I left 2.5 cups in the fridge and froze 2 cups. It’s kind of a pain to clean the food processor, so if it freezes well I think next time I’ll make an even bigger batch. Maybe 6 cups of chickpeas.

How I cooked the chickpeas: I cooked 1 pound 12 ounces chickpeas in my instant pot. I hot-soaked them over the morning in about 70 C water, to fill to the 3 liter mark. I also added about 1 3/4 tsp. of salt. I left the instant pot on keep warm.  When they seemed fully hydrated I cooked them under pressure for 17 minutes. They ended up soft (maybe a tad too soft for chana masala) but not quite as soft as last time. Maybe next time do 16 minutes, take some out, then cook the rest for hummus another few minutes? I used the still very warm chickpeas in the hummus, because I heard that makes a creamier hummus.

To decide how much tahini to use, I compared a few recipes.  This nytimes Zahav-inspired recipe calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and a full cup of tahini!, but no olive oil (except to garnish). That said, the nytimes version seems to be a bastardized version of the chef’s original recipe. The version of Zahav’s recipe on food52 calls for 3 cups of cooked chickpeas and only 2/3 cup of tahini, and the technique is different. Odd. This Ottolenghi recipe calls for 3 cups of chickpeas and 13.5 Tbs. (.84 cups) of tahini .

For reference, the amount of tahini for 4 cups of chickpeas ranges from 10.67 (Better than storebought recipe), 14 Tbs. (Zahav), 18 tbs. (Ottolenghi), to 21.33 (NYT version of Zahav’s). Lemon juice ranges from 4 Tbs. (Ottolenghi), 7 Tbs. (Zahav), 10.67 Tbs. (Better than storebought). And salt ranges from 1.33 tsp. salt (Better than Storebought), to 1.5 tsp. salt (Ottolenghi).

Update as of April 14, 2018:

I cooked 1.5 pounds of dry (unsoaked) chickpeas with 1.5 tsp. of salt in my instant pot for 55 minutes, and then went out and they ended up sitting on keep warm for around 3 hours I think. They ended up quite soft. Next time maybe I should add a bit less salt, just 1.25 tsp for 1.5 pounds of chickpeas or 1.5 tsp. for 1.75 pounds of chickpeas.

I made an even larger batch of hummus than last time (4x the original recipe), but I think it was too much for my food processor motor to handle, and also probably a bit too much for the freezer. Next time I’ll probably go back to the 4-cup of chickpeas version. Or divide it and make it in two batches.

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice (183g)
  • 1.5 cups tahini (341g)
  • 6 garlic cloves (around 16g)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin (I didn’t add this at first, but it was quite bland. Was better with the cumin.)
  • 1.5 tsp. (but see note below on the bean juice)
  • 6 cup salted chickpeas (984g)
  • about 10-11 Tbs. bean juice (about 173g) [I ended up needing to add way more liquid, maybe double? That’s probably why I needed less salt, since the bean juice was salted]

Here’s the original “Better than Storebought” recipe x4, for comparison:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) fresh lemon juice (about 4 large lemons)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 8 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas or 6 cups (1kg) cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup to 1.5 cups of bean cooking liquid

Update as of March 23, 2018:

How I cooked the chickpeas: I soaked just shy of 1 pound of chickpeas with plenty of salt and kombu for about 24 hours, drained them, then put them in the instant pot with a bit over 2 cups of water, so they were just barely covered. I cooked them on high pressure for 14 minutes, plus natural release. They came out well—salty and soft but not falling apart soft. I maybe could have done one more minute for hummus-soft beans.

When the beans were still warm I made one batch of hummus, but I was a bit short on tahini so I cut down on the lemon juice a bit too. My beans and aquafaba were quite salty, so I cut back on salt in the hummus. The hummus came out well.

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (122g) [I used a bit less, maybe 105g?]
  • 1 cup tahini (227g) [I ran out, and only used about 170g]
  • 8 or 9g of garlic
  • about 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cup cooked salted chickpeas (should have been about 656g, but mine weighed about 700-something grams)
  • about 8 or 9 Tbs. bean juice (more than 111g)

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Asparagus, pea, fava bean, and barley ragout

May 31, 2017 at 9:37 pm (101 cookbooks, Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Grains, My brain, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Spring recipes, Starches, Vegetable dishes) (, )

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never cooked with fava beans. All that boiling and husking and peeling of individual beans … Seems like a lot of work. So I thought I’d start easy with basically ready-to-eat frozen, pre-shelled fava beans. But what to do with them? I found this recipe for a spring ragout on the 101 cookbooks blog, and it looked good, and toddler friendly. Alma likes asparagus and peas and pasta, so hopefully she’d like the dish. And she did. I decided to make it a second time, but then Alma got pasta at lunch at daycare, and I didn’t want to serve pasta twice in one day, so I subbed in barley instead. She loved it!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Easy toasted overnight steel cut oatmeal

May 29, 2017 at 8:55 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

Normally Derek doesn’t like oatmeal made from steel cut oats that much, but today he really liked it, and he asked me to write up what I did. I mostly followed this recipe from Marin Mama Cooks for toasted overnight steel cut oats, but I made a few changes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Baked Cauli-tots

May 15, 2017 at 8:44 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog) ()

There are a million recipes online for cauliflower “tots”. They’re a fun change of pace from simple roasted cauliflower, and they’re easy to make in advance when you need a quick breakfast. Serve the cauli-tots with some already cooked beans and some fresh fruit and they’ll make a great breakfast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Restaurant-style sesame noodles

April 30, 2017 at 9:58 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Chinese, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Pasta, Sauce/dressing, Tofu, Website / blog) ()

I already have two sesame noodle recipes on my blog. The first recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook, and uses tahini. The second recipe is from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese cookbook, and uses peanut butter. But lately we haven’t been making either of these recipes. Instead we’ve been making a version of the takeout-style sesame noodles recipe from Sam Sifton on the New York Times website. It uses both tahini and peanut butter. It’s clearly the winner. We make a whole meal out of it by adding pan-fried tofu, steamed broccoli, and various raw veggies. The last few times we’ve made this for dinner, Alma has scarfed it up. Read the rest of this entry »

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Homemade Progresso-style Lentil Soup

April 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Monthly menu plan, My brain, soup, Winter recipes) ()

The first food that Derek ever cooked for me was a bowl of lentil soup. He very carefully opened up a can of Progresso lentil soup, and then worked long and hard to “cook” it. And cook it he did, not in the microwave but in a real pot on the stove! It was piping hot and delicious.

Both of us still love Progresso vegetable classics lentil soup, but we can’t get it here in Germany. It’s probably for the best though, as I try not to buy canned foods, plus the sodium levels are through the roof. Still, we miss it, and so I decided to try to make it myself. I looked online for a copycat recipe, but couldn’t find anything that seemed promising. So I just took a look at the ingredient list and nutritional label and gave it a crack. I haven’t had the real thing in years, so I could be off, but to both Derek and I my soup tasted just like the real thing.

The first time I made it Alma wouldn’t touch it (too brown and goopy I guess), but at some point she finally tried it and really liked it. Then the next time I served it she again rejected it. I reminded her that last time she had scarfed it up and that she had even chastised me for finishing all the leftovers. She tried it again and again happily polished off her bowl. Now, however, at almost 5 years old, she isn’t so excited again.
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Creamy millet porridge with baked, spiced pears

February 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Fall recipes, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Website / blog, Winter recipes) ()

Derek is not a millet fan. I remember him happily digging into a millet pilaf I made many years ago, and then almost doing a spit-take. “What did you do to the rice?” he asked with a look of intense disgust on his face. “This is the worst rice you’ve ever made!” So as you can imagine, I don’t cook a lot of millet. But Alma likes porridge, and I’m not the biggest oatmeal fan. I wanted to make some alternative-grain porridges, and I came across a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for creamy millet porridge. They say “slightly overcooking millet causes the seeds to burst and release starch, creating a creamy consistency that makes this grain ideal for breakfast porridge.” Sounds good! I think Derek’s main problem with millet is its somewhat dry, gritty texture, so I thought maybe he’d be willing to eat millet in a porridge. And he is! Alma likes it too, and for me it’s a nice change from oatmeal.

When I made this porridge for breakfast today, I served it with my Mom’s Ayurvedic baked, spiced pears. Alma isn’t normally a huge pear fan, but she likes these baked pears, which are seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. And unlike with baked apples, she doesn’t even complain about the skin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Broccoli, feta, lime frittata

December 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Cook's Illustrated, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Uncategorized) ()

The frittata is called the lazy cook’s omelet. Sounds perfect, no? I like omelets but I’m definitely lazy. I’ve tried various frittata recipes before, but neither Derek nor I ever like them. They’re always a bit too dry and rubbery. Or over-browned. Or just meh. But I’ve always thought that maybe my technique was just wrong. So I decided to give it another go, when Cook’s Illustrated came out with a new frittata series this year. And I thought it came out pretty well! Definitely better than my previous attempts.

And Alma really likes it (at least as of September 2017). I’ve since made it several times and she always really enjoys it. The magic of feta cheese perhaps? Read the rest of this entry »

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Wintry root vegetable risotto with red beans

November 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Fall recipes, Grains, Peter Berley, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

A friend served us this recipe from Peter Berley’s cookbook The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, and both Derek and I really liked it. Shredded carrots and parsnips add a bit of sweetness, turnips add a slightly funky note, while the beans add an earthy, hearty feel. Ginger and tomato paste add even more flavor. The original recipe also calls for burdock, but we can’t get it here, so we left it out. I’m sure it would make the dish truly stellar. Read the rest of this entry »

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Modern Succotash with Fennel and Scallions

November 12, 2016 at 8:49 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Quick weeknight recipe) ()

So far Alma does not like fennel. I was looking for a recipe for fennel that she might possibly like, and I found this Cook’s Illustrated recipe for a modern succotash with corn, white beans, and (a little) fennel. She loves corn and generally likes white beans, so I figured it was worth a shot.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried cabbage, potatoes, and peas

July 2, 2016 at 8:51 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, Indian, Monthly menu plan, Other, Starches)

This is a relatively straightforward recipe from the cookbook “660 Curries”. Both Derek and I really enjoyed it. It tasted authentically Indian, without being overwhelmingly rich.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Asian-style baked tofu, toddler approved

May 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Baked tofu, Chinese, Derek's faves, Tofu) ()

I finally got a chance to try an easier version of the crisp marinated and baked tofu. I skipped the pressing and the cornstarch dredging steps and simply poured the marinade directly onto the tofu and baked it. It was a hit, both with Derek and with Alma. And I didn’t miss the cornstarch or pressing steps at all. I think the texture turned out just fine. Read the rest of this entry »

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My mom’s toddler-approved chana dal

April 14, 2016 at 11:13 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, breakfast, Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Indian, Mom’s recipes, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

My mom visited us in January and made us her favorite chana dal recipe for dinner one night. It was a hit, but we ate it all up immediately. So before she left she made us a second, doubled batch and froze it. We defrosted it a few weeks later and again it was a hit with everyone, including my 1-year-old. Since then I’ve been making a quadrupled batch of chana dal every two weeks. We eat it for dinner, freeze some of it, and eat the rest for breakfast a few days later. Then we defrost the frozen portion and have it for a dinner and a breakfast the following week. Sometimes we serve it with yogurt, but often we don’t. My now 14-month-old always eats it happily. When we have it for breakfast, I try to serve it with a piece of vitamin C rich fruit, often a grapefruit, an orange or clementine, or a kiwi. The only problem with the recipe is that it doesn’t have any vegetables in it. I’m curious to try adding some vegetables — maybe a bit of spinach or carrots? In the meantime, if I have leftover roasted or curried cauliflower, I will serve that as a side dish.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinoa Spinach Croquettes, Toddler Approved

February 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Dark leafy greens, Grains, Monthly menu plan, Necessarily nonvegan, Vegetable dishes, Website / blog) ()

Last month I made broccoli cheddar quinoa bites, and liked them. So I decided to try this recipe for “Quinoa quiche muffins with spinach and cheese.” Although they are called muffins, the recipe is actually quite similar to the previous recipe, except that it calls for spinach instead of broccoli, has more eggs, and uses feta in addition to cheddar. Like before, I made them on a cookie sheet instead of in a muffin tin, to save on cleanup time. Although they are called “quiche muffins,” the way I made them they didn’t have the texture of a typical quiche or of a typical muffin. The texture is more grainy and crumbly, similar to the texture of these five-grain croquettes.

Alma really likes this recipe, and Derek and I enjoy it as well. The croquettes freeze well, and along with a piece of fruit they make an easy quick breakfast. I’ve made this recipe at least 5 times since I originally posted it (often with a slight variation), and it’s always a hit. It also works well as a take-along snack—just bring the frozen croquette with you and it will probably be defrosted by the time you get there. It’s fine room temperature. Just don’t give it to your toddler inside without a plate because it can be a bit crumbly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Borlotti bean mole with winter squash and kale

January 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm (101 cookbooks, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Beans and greens, Cruciferous rich, Dark leafy greens, Fall recipes, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Uncategorized, Winter recipes)

I made this 101cookbooks recipe right before I left for Israel last month, when I wanted to use up some steamed kale and some roasted squash.  I only had one serving, but I quite enjoyed it. I thought the dish was extremely hearty and flavorful, and made a great one-pot dinner. Beans and greens and chocolate. How can you go wrong?  I’ll definitely be trying it again. Read the rest of this entry »

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The lazy cook’s black bean recipe

January 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Mexican & S. American, Website / blog) ()

This recipe from Serious Eats is supposed to be a super easy way to make tasty black beans. Black beans? Yes please. Lazy cook? Double yes. Clearly I had to try it. It’s interesting in that they recommend simmering the aromatics rather than sautéeing them first. Not only is it easier and faster, but the author claims that sautéeing sweetens the aromatics too much, so that they overpower the beans. I was intrigued. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pumpkin chia pudding

November 6, 2015 at 11:13 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dessert, Monthly menu plan, Pudding, Website / blog) ()

Alma really likes my Mom’s almond chia pudding, so I started looking for some more recipes using chia seeds, and I came across this recipe for pumpkin pie chia pudding. Read the rest of this entry »

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