Vegetarian Posole in the Instant Pot

December 14, 2020 at 8:10 pm (Beans, Grains, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders, Uncategorized)

My Mom sent us a pound of hominy in a Chanukah package, and I decided to try to make posole from it. The package said you should simmer the hominy for 1 to 2 hours, which seemed like a long time, so I decided to make the posole in my Instant Pot. I looked in my “Vegan Under Pressure” cookbook but they don’t list any cooking times for dried hominy. But I looked in the index and found posole. Success! But when I actually turned to the recipe I discovered it with calling for pre-cooked, canned hominy. I guessed that the hominy would cook in about the same amount of time as dried beans, so I soaked both overnight, and then roughly followed the recipe. Except I wasn’t sure exactly how much hominy to use for the 1 can of hominy the recipe calls for. I had soaked the whole pound of dried hominy so I decided just to use the whole thing. I also had soaked 500g of cranberry beans. So that’s where I started. I sauteed some aromatics, then cooked both the soaked beans and hominy together in the instant pot for I think about 12 minutes (but that’s a guess, I didn’t write it down and now I’ve forgotten), followed by a natural release. But at that point the hominy was clearly undercooked. I cooked the beans and hominy for a bit longer under pressure, at which point the beans were definitely soft enough but the hominy was still a bit underdone. Whoops. Maybe I should have put the soaked hominy in with unsoaked cranberry beans instead, and cooked them together for 35 minutes under pressure + NR? In any case, despite the hominy being a tad firm, the posole was yummy. Derek and I both really enjoyed it, but Alma said it was too spicy for her and she really didn’t like the texture of the hominy.

I don’t remember exactly what I did, but here’s my best guess:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 pound dried hominy, soaked overnight
  • 4 large cloves garlic, mined
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder + 1 Tbs. ancho powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1.5 tsp. salt (total guess)
  • whole tomatoes (maybe 1.5 cups?)
  • tomato puree (maybe 1 cup?)
  • frozen corn (maybe 1 cup?)

I sauteed the onion over medium heat, then added the garlic, ground cumin, chili powders, and smoked paprika and sauteed another minute. I added the soaked hominy and soaked, drained beans, and added I think 5 cups of vegetable broth and salt. After the beans and hominy were cooked (see note above) I added some whole tomatoes from a jar, about a cup of tomato puree, and maybe 1 cup of frozen corn. I locked the lid back on and let it sit for 3 minutes. I seasoned with lime juice and cilantro to taste.

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Cauliflower Tikka Masala

April 27, 2020 at 11:05 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Indian, Instant Pot, Quick weeknight recipe, Website / blog)

I wanted to make an Indian cauliflower dish, but I wasn’t in the mood for my usual dry curry, plus Alma hasn’t liked it the last couple of times I made it. I decided to make this recipe from veganricha.com instead, since you roasted the cauliflower in the oven and make the sauce separately in the Instant Pot. I figured Alma could eat the cauliflower plain if she wanted.

So I made the sauce, except I used whole tomatoes instead of chopped, and I didn’t have any fresh cilantro or dried fenugreek leaves. Also, I didn’t have vegan yogurt or cream so I used regular dairy products. Maybe I needed more cream though because my sauce came out much brighter red and not as creamy-looking as it does in the picture? In any case the sauce was good. It tasted Indian, but subtly—much brighter, simpler flavors and much less spiced or rich than the food I get in Indian recipes. Both Derek and I liked it, but I put in too much chili and it was too spicy for Alma.

I didn’t simmer the cauliflower with the sauce, just served them separately. I also roasted some chickpeas along with the cauliflower, and I cut up some seitan and served it on the side with basmati rice. Alma ate the lightly spiced roasted cauliflower and chickpeas with plain seitan (but no rice), and Derek and I mixed the seitan and cauliflower together with the basmati rice and the tikka sauce. Yum. I’d definitely make this again, but next time I will leave out the chili and see if Alma will eat it.

If you make the sauce ahead of time (can you freeze it?) then this would be a quick weeknight dinner.

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Instant Pot Brussels Sprouts with Maple Mustard Sauce

March 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm (Cruciferous rich, Fall recipes, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, unrated, Winter recipes)

We almost always cook brussels sprouts the same way, pan-fried and dusted with parmesan cheese. But I was in the mood for something different, and I kept seeing people rave about this recipe from Vegan Under Pressure for brussels sprouts with maple mustard sauce. Pressure cooked brussels sprouts? Seems a bit worrisome, but so many people said they loved it I decided to give it a try.

The sprouts didn’t end up overcooked, as I had worried they might, but they were definitely wet and soft, not crisp or browned. I thought the sauce was quite tasty (tastier than I expected), and I enjoyed it on the sprouts. Still, I missed the texture of the pan-fried brussels sprouts. And the look of the dish was not so appetizing. Maybe next time I should pan-fry the brussels sprouts then pour the sauce over the top?

 

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Instant Pot Chana Masala

February 26, 2020 at 10:58 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, 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.)

Update Jan 17, 2022: I made this recipe again but I doubled it. It didn’t come out perfect but Derek still said he loved it. I quick-soaked the beans and cooked them under pressure for I think 50 minutes but then I forgot to release the pressure after 10 to 15 minutes of natural release, and the chickpeas ended up extremely soft. There was also a huge amount of sauce. (I think I doubled the 2.5 cups of water, but next time I will try just using 4 cups total? Or maybe I will use totally dry/unsoaked chickpeas with the full 5 cups of water and 60 minutes cooking time and see how that works? Doubling it made quite a lot. I wonder if I can freeze it. If not then maybe I should just make 1.5x next time.

I put the garam masala in early and also added ground fennel, but still didn’t have any fenugreek and I forgot the paprika this time, but the dish was plenty flavorful.

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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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Instant Pot Saag Aloo with sweet potatoes and chard

February 13, 2020 at 10:26 pm (C (1 star, edible), Dark leafy greens, Indian, Instant Pot, Root vegetables, Website / blog)

I have been craving Indian food, and so I printed out a bunch of new Indian Instant Pot recipes to test. I gave Derek the stack of recipes and he picked this Vegan Richa recipe for Instant Pot Saag Aloo, which was convenient because I happened to have a lot of chard and sweet potatoes. Also, we really like Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot lasagne soup, so I was hoping for another great dish.

Unfortunately, it was not a success. Alma (at age five) took one bite and then wouldn’t touch it, and even Derek only ate a few spoonfuls. It ended up very watery, not sure why. Maybe I mis-measured the water? But even ignoring the wateriness, nobody liked the flavors. Too much cinnamon maybe? Derek said it was just too sweet tasting. Did I screw it up, or is it just not for us?

To try to improve the texture, I pureed it all together and then served it with pan-fried paneer for breakfast this morning. That was okay, but we still didn’t like the sweet potato / chard / cinnamon combination very much.

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Instant Pot Creamy Wild Rice Soup

December 9, 2019 at 9:27 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, soup, Website / blog, Winter recipes)

I’m in a couple of vegetarian Instant Pot groups on Facebook, and I keep seeing people rave about a recipe for wild rice soup. I decided to try it, but when I went to look for the recipe I actually found 6 different recipes! Which to try? I asked the group and they voted as follows.

I went and compared the two recipes with the top number of votes, and they’re actually almost identical. Both call for carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms in addition to the wild rice, and make the soup creamy by adding a roux made with butter, flour, and milk after the soup is cooked in the Instant Pot. The only difference is that Pinch of Yum calls for slightly more vegetables and broth than the Belly Rules the Mind recipe, and poultry seasoning and thyme vs. Italian seasoning, but otherwise they are the same.

The Cooking Carnival recipe is vaguely similar—it also has you make a roux, but calls for coconut milk.

In contrast, the Cardamom and Coconut recipe uses triple the mushrooms, even more broth than Pinch of Yum, and instead of making a roux with flour and milk and 6 Tbs. butter it calls for sour cream and cornstarch to thicken it and only 1 Tbs. of butter. The only herb is thyme.

The Life is No Yoke recipe is the most different. It uses pureed cashews to make it creamy and calls for white beans.

I decided to try the Pinch of Yum recipe, because it got a lot of votes, I like poultry seasoning (and don’t have Italian seasoning) and more vegetables sounded good.

The soup came out pretty well, but was a tad goopy in texture, even though I added an extra cup of broth. I think I might make slightly less roux next time. And I would add more herbs, but that might just be because my poultry seasoning was very old. Overall I’d say a solid B.

Derek really liked it, rating it B+ or A-. He said he wouldn’t change anything.

Alma (at almost 5) ate about half a small bowl then said she didn’t want anymore. She preferred the roasted vegetables I served on the side, especially the Jerusalem artichokes.

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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) ()

Making risotto on the stovetop is a pain, but in the instant pot it’s truly hands off. I’ve been making risotto much more often since I got my Instant Pot. This recipe is our favorite so far. I like to serve this risotto for dinner with lemon juice, parmesan, lots of basil, and green beans. I eat the green beans mixed into my risotto. I like the textural contrast they provide, as well as the pop of color. They also balance out the meal by providing a little more fiber, protein, and vitamins. I think it makes about 6 servings. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Arroz non Pollo

January 21, 2019 at 9:55 pm (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Grains, Instant Pot, Jill Nussinow, Mexican & S. American, One pot wonders)

This Arroz non Pollo recipe from Jill Nussinow’s Vegan Under Pressure cookbook gets rave reviews in the Instant Pot Vegan Recipes Facebook group. Other than the cilantro, all the ingredients seemed like something Alma would eat. So I decided to give it a try.

The technique is interesting. You first dry-saute mushrooms. I was impressed to see that the water very quickly came out of the mushrooms and they started to cook without burning. Then you add carrots, garlic, turmeric or a pinch of saffron (I used both), and cayenne (I omitted it for Alma). You saute them briefly (without oil) and then add brown rice, vegetable broth with 1 bunch of cilantro blended into it, and soaked pinto beans. You cook the rice and let the pressure release naturally, then at the very end you throw in red bell pepper, peas, and corn.

I forgot to soak any pinto beans so I reduced the amount of broth by 1/4 cup and threw in some already cooked kidney beans at the end with the final veggies.

I wasn’t sure how much 1 bunch of cilantro was. My bunch looked really big so I only used 2/3 of it. I wish she would have given a weight measurement.

And 1 cup of sliced mushrooms only seemed to be 2 ounces? That’s just a few mushrooms. I doubled it and added 4 ounces.

I kept looking for tomatoes in the recipe, but couldn’t find any. Instead, the cilantro and turmeric turn the rice a yellow greenish color. It’s very pretty. And the texture of the rice came out perfect.

Unfortunately, Alma refused to eat it and Derek didn’t like it very much. He said it tasted “muddy”. I think he didn’t like the flavor of the very cooked cilantro? Normally we throw cilantro in at the very end and it’s a much greener, brighter flavor. But I liked how the blended cilantro colored the rice. If I wanted to keep the basic idea but cook the cilantro less, how could I do it? Would I soak the rice first? Would that cut the cooking time substantially? Would I cook the rice for 15 minutes and then quick release and then add the cilantro only for the last 5 minutes of cooking?

Also, maybe my homemade vegetable broth was too strong and funky? Maybe I need to use a more mild vegetable broth? Maybe make a simple one with just onions and carrots and cilantro stems?

I liked the combination of veggies and rice but I actually wanted more veggies and less rice. And it made a *huge* amount. I think if I make this again I will leave the veggie amounts the same (except use 8 ounces of mushrooms and a whole bell pepper), but cut the rice amount back by 25%.

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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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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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How does an Instant Pot compare to a stovetop pressure cooker? Pros and Cons

July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm (Beans, Equipment reviews, Instant Pot) ()

I have a nice Fissler pressure cooker that I use occasionally (mostly to cook beans). I like it, but I don’t love it. Recently I got an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker. Even though I’ve only made four things in it so far (black beans, chana dal, sweet potatoes, and beets), I can already tell that I like it much better than my stovetop pressure cooker. Here’s why I’m ditching my stovetop pressure cooker and getting an Instant Pot instead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Perfect Polenta

April 7, 2006 at 8:55 am (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Monthly menu plan, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe)

As of 2019, I now make polenta in the instant pot. It comes out well every time! I need to remember to return to this post to write the ratio of liquid to polenta I use, the amount of salt, and the timing. I always make extra (usually 2 cups of polenta) and whatever we don’t eat I pour onto a cookie sheet and let cool, then put in the fridge. A few days later I cut the thin polenta into strips and bake it at 350 or 375 degrees (NOT 400) on an oiled cookie sheet. (No need to oil the polenta itself.) The result is delicious polenta chips. We usually eat them with refried beans. Alma won’t eve eat the soft polenta, but she loves the polenta chips.

Original text from Apr 7, 2006:

I was having a new group of friends over for dinner and wanted to make at least one dish I was positive that even the pickiest eater would enjoy. Thus, out came the polenta.

1 cup coarse polenta
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
ground fennel seeds (optional)
paprika (optional)
cayenne (optional)
parmesan (optional)

I’ve been quite confused lately about the difference between cornmeal, grits, hominy grits, and polenta, but what I can tell you is this: the polenta I buy at the co-op is bright yellow and a very coarse grind. I store it in the refridgerator because I noticed that it starts to smell rancid very quickly if I leave it in the pantry.

In every polenta recipe there is always a discussion of lumpy polenta, but I don’t understand the obsession. Just add your polenta to cold water and voila!– no lumps. Another key ingredient is salt. Undersalted polenta is boring and tasteless, but use a sufficient amount of salt and your polenta will be addictive. I’ve been using 1 cup of polenta, 4 cups of water, and 1 tsp. of salt to make hard polenta. This sounds like a lot of salt, but you have to remember that this recipe makes about 5 cups of polenta (check this amount), so it’s not quite as crazy as it looks. It’s very tasty, but quite salty, so I might try with 3/4 tsp. salt and see what I think. Another common addition is olive oil, but I couldn’t detect any difference when I added it to the mix, so might as well leave it out at this step.

Stirring–another matter of debate. They say if you want a quick recipe than you can just keep the heat up and stir constantly, but I’ve found that with a coarse-ground polenta this is a lot of work and that no matter how much you stir the texture always comes out a bit gritty. A better strategy is to stir only while you bring the water to a boil initially. You should keep the heat quite high, and keep stirring, until the water and polenta congeal into one solid mass. Then immediately turn the heat as low as it will go (I use 1/2 of my warm setting on my electric stove), cover, and don’t touch it for an hour. Most cookbooks say to stir every 10 minutes or so, but I haven’t found that it makes any difference. It sticks in either case, so I might as well just not touch it. So I lose a bit of polenta at the bottom of the pan, no big loss. Just soak the pan for a few hours and the stuck bits will peel right off. Many recipes say to cook it for 40-45 minutes, and it will definitely be cooked by then, but I’ve found that with a coarse ground polenta 60 minutes is even better.

When it’s done it will be soft and porridge-y, a total comfort food. This is the point when high fat ingredients like cheese, butter, and cream are typically added. I’ve found that all that is needed for marvelous flavor is a little grated parmigiano-reggiano. It doesn’t take much to infuse the whole dish with great flavor, maybe 1 ounce of cheese, grated? Put that cheese in and stir to mix, because the soft texture won’t last for long. The polenta is delicious at this stage. Top with some sort of sauce or vegetable saute for a marvelous, comfort-food dinner. However, as soon as it starts to cool it will firm up, so pour whatever you’re not going to eat immediately into a 9×13 pyrex pan or onto a cookie sheet to cool. Sometimes I pour it into a 9×9 square pyrex pan, then when I cut it into squares I cut the pieces in half midway through to halve their height and ensure that the final pieces are nice and crispy. If you only want soft polenta you can start out with more water, I’ve heard 8 cups water to 1 cup polenta is a good ratio, but I’ve never tried it myself because the 5 to 1 ratio gives you the best of both worlds. Soft polenta right when it’s done and hard crispy polenta at another meal.

Once it’s firm you can cut it into square or triangles, place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet of the polenta with olive oil as well. Cook at 425 degrees until crisp, or under the broiler if you really watch it. Flip to crisp the other side, then serve. They’re great hot right out of the oven, but also marvelous once they cool as well.

I still need to figure out exactly how much oil is needed (if any), and how long it takes to broil.

I made this recipe for a party lately, and everyone really liked it. It was the first thing to get eaten. I followed the seasoning suggestions of my friend Amy and added ground fennel, paprika, and cayenne to the polenta as well. This really “kicked it up a notch”… but in a good way.

Nutritional Info for Polenta from Bob’s Red Mill. According to this site one cup of coarse-ground polenta has 520 calories. An ounce of parmesan has about 129 I think, and if you use one tablespoon of olive oil to bake the polenta, that’s 119 calories. All together that’s 768 calories. That’s under 100 calories a person for 8 servings and under 200 calories a person for 4 servings (each of which is extremely large). Pretty low calorie for an amazing, perfect polenta.

What happens if you want to serve soft polenta, but not as the first course at a dinner party? Can you just leave it on the barest heat until you’re ready to serve? I’ll have to test this. An alternative (baking the polenta) is discussed by the author of the Vegetarian Epicure. I saw another tip that it’s best to use a mixture of cornmeals to get the best texture, say 75% coarse and 25% fine. I’ll have to try this and see if it’s any different.

Update Dec 2006: I tried a recipe for polenta in one of my cookbooks that called for 1 cup of polenta, 5 cups of water, and 1 cup of pumpkin puree. I used frozen butternut squash puree. I tasted the polenta when it was done and it tasted pretty normal, maybe just a tad sweeter than usual. When I baked it in the oven I couldn’t tell it had pumpkin puree in it at all–it crisped up the same as always, and tasted identically. I’ll have to keep this in mind next time I have extra pumpkin or squash puree around, or if I just want my polenta to have more beta carotene. I might even try more than 1 cup next time since it was barely detectable. The same recipe also called for topping the polenta with a few spoonfuls of black bean salsa. I made the salsa according to their directions, and it was nice, but I didn’t like it on the polenta–it just overpowered it, so I couldn’t taste the polenta at all, just the black beans. The minced jalepeno, on the other hand, went wonderfully with the polenta. I think I should one jalepeno in next time I make it, like people do with cornbread.

Update 9/2007: I used Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits. In a 3 quart pot I combined 1.5 cups of grits and 6 cups of water. with 1.5 tsp fine salt, 1 tsp. ground fennel, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne. Brought to a boil until water combined with corn, then reduced to very low, covered, and cooked for 1 hour. The amount of fennel flavor was good, as was the cayenne. It was definitely salty but not too much for me. It had just a little kick from the cayenne, which wasn’t noticeable at first but after you finished a bit warmed your mouth nicely. If you’re feeding someone who doesn’t like any spice at all it might be too much. I didn’t like the texture of the soft polenta at all–way too thick (you could stand a spoon up in it) and fluffy, with big noticeable corn bits rather than a perfectly smooth, almost pourable consistency.

Rating: B

How to make crispy polenta sticks

I make these occasionally (usually with refried beans and guacamole and salsa) and they’re always a big hit. I just make polenta as I normally would, and we eat it soft for dinner (often with ratatouille or roasted veggies or something like that, and a side of cannellini beans or chickpeas). I make the polenta in my instant pot which has the added benefit of keeping the polenta warm until we are done with dinner, then when dinner is over I pour whatever is left onto an oiled cooked sheet. (If I made roasted veggies then I don’t wash the cookie sheet first, just use it as is, since it still has oil on it.) The polenta cools while I clean up the dinner dishes, and then I cut it into large slabs and put it in the fridge (using parchment paper between layers so they don’t stick).

When I want to make the sticks I oil a cookie sheet lightly and cut the polenta into long rectangles (size is up to you, skinnier will crisp up faster but is more work) and arrange them on the cookie sheet until they are as crisp as we want them. (You may have to rotate the cookie sheet halfway through if you have hotspots in your oven.) If you want them super crispy you can spray/brush oil over the tops as well, and flip them over halfway through, but it’s not necessary. My daughter loves them even when they’re not super crisp.

That said, my Italian friends say that you should *never* cook/heat leftover polenta in the oven. They do it in a frying pan with just a bit of oil to prevent it from sticking. I haven’t tried it that way as it sounds like way more work given the quantity I usually make.

I once mixed a seasoned rosemary white bean puree in with the polenta and while *I* thought the sticks were quite yummy, my daughter wouldn’t eat them. I’ve been considering trying it again, or trying adding something like finely chopped broccoli.

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