Pressure Cooker Paranoia


Like many people, I have an irrational fear of pressure cookers. I have long read of their advantages, especially for vegetarians who like bean dishes. Speeding up the bean cooking process would be fantastic as I already like to cook from dry beans whenever possible for better flavor. So I received a pressure cooker as a a gift and I was so excited that I … left it unused. I especially wanted for high altitude cooking, but fear overcame me. I read that there are the old school “jiggle top” cookers, and the new school cookers that have a tighter seal. That caused confusion and the source of my fear crystalized. Everyone knows the horror stories of ruined dinners, ruined kitchens, and even injury from an exploding pressure cooker. Apparently, this almost never happens, not even in the old days, but once a belief takes hold, watch out!


So, it took my sister to decide to conquer the fear by making a fabulous lentil-quinoa soup while I was skiing. No tragedies occurred, but a great soup was the result. So today we tried a more ambitious recipe: New Mexico Pinto Bean Soup adapted from Lorna Sass’s book Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. I used my heirloom pinto beans from Adobe Milling, since they have great flavor. Here is more or less what we did:

New Mexico Pinto Bean Soup

2 C soaked dried pinto beans
1 T canola oil (while I eschew all oil, in this case the pressure cooker requires it for beans, to prevent disaster)
1 t cumin seeds, whole
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 red bellpepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 C corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 t dried oregano
Dash of chipotle chili powder
Dash of ground coriander
4 C water or broth

For finishing:
2 T tomato paste
1/2 C minced fresh cilantro
2 T lime juice

1. Sizzle cumin seeds in the oil until they pop, add garlic and brown
2. Add onion and peppers and saute one minute
3. Add beans, corn, water and spices
4. Lock lid and bring to high pressure, lower heat and cook for 8 min.
5. Remove from heat and allow pressure to come down naturally.
6. Using an immersion blender, whizz in the tomato paste until the desired consistency is achieved
7. Add cilantro and lime juice, check for seasoning and serve.
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About vegpedlr

Plant powered off-road triathlete

Posted on January 2, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Vegpedlr, you probably already know this, seeing that this post is several years old, but you don’t need the oil in the pressure cooker when cooking beans/stews, etc. I use my pressure cookers all the time (Kuhn-Rikon) and have never had a problem using no oil. I also was afraid of pressure cookers before finally purchasing one (and then two more) a few years ago, but the new pressure cookers have built in safety mechanisms as opposed to the old jiggler style pressure cookers. I’m sure you also know this information by now, but I chuckled when I saw that you had the same fears and reluctance to use the pressure cooker as myself! Now I wonder why I didn’t start using one many years ago! I also have Lorna Sass’s “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” but use it mostly for the beans and grains cooking time chart. I also go through spurts where I’m using my slow cooker all the time, then my pressure cooker seems to be in steady use or alternately my rice cooker. Sometimes I’ve used all three at once!

    • The pressure cooker in question IS an older style jiggle top model. The directions were clear, and we followed them. Not only is oil needed for that cooker, chickpeas are not recommended since their skins will clog the vent. I was hoping that it would make cooking at 6000 ft easier, but I’ve found the crockpot does awesome. I want to get a newer design pressure cooker experiment more with, in part to try out some of Lorna Sass. Also some old macrobiotic recipes. Nevertheless it was a funny day in the kitchen!

  2. Sorry, I didn’t realize that you had a jiggler top pressure cooker. I do remember when I researched pressure cookers that you do require some oil in the older jigglier style of pressure cooker. It may even have been a Lorna Sass video or on her website where I read/viewed that information. What I love about my Kuhn-Rikon pressure cookers is the high quality triple ply stainless steel (with aluminum sandwiched between the stainless layers). I find I use the pressure cookers for regular cooking as well because sauteeing onions and other vegetables often times doesn’t even require any water or broth/liquid to be added and the clean up is easy. I waited until I found a good deal on Amazon.com. I first bought the 7 quart pot and then bought the 5.5 qt and 2.5 quart frying pan combo and am very happy with my purchases. The recipe above sounds good. I’ll try it out sometime soon. Also, winter squash cooks up really well in the pressure cooker, as well as potatoes, sweet potatoes, steel cut oats and of course beans of all kind.

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