If someone were to ask me what kitchen utensil I couldn’t live without—I’d say the pressure cooker. I have two of them, both stainless steel, one an Italian-made jiggle-top and one newer, with a pressure regulator that doesn’t jiggle, a Swiss model: Kuhn-Rikon. And it seems like every time I talk about pressure cookers, someone has a story to tell about one exploding its contents all over the kitchen ceiling. My family has a blown-lid tale to tell as well, except that didn’t stop my mother from cooking corned beef and cabbage in a pressure cooker every St. Patrick’s Day, or teaching me the merits of steaming artichokes in 2/3 less time.
Besides cooking beans—pintos, chickpeas, black beans, white beans etc.—in record time, especially at our 7000 feet above sea level, my favorite pressure-cooked dish is ten minute risotto, the creamy Italian rice dish. My rapid risotto mentor is Lorna Sass, author of several cookbooks about pressure cookery. I use her Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.
Risotto is made with a short and fat-grained white rice, Arborio, with the starch of this rice responsible for risotto’s creamy texture; do not rinse the rice so the starch is not lost. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll just have to add more veggie stock, for a total of 5 1/2 to 6 cups, 1 ladle at a time, stirring all the while (about 40 minutes,) until the rice is creamy and tender.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
3-3 1/2 cups hot vegetable broth
12 ounces spinach leaves, washed and stems removed, chopped in 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
In your pressure cooker, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook and stir until the onion is soft. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the oil, cooking for a minute or so. Pour in the wine and cook and stir until the wine is almost all absorbed. Add 3 cups of the vegetable broth.
Close the lid and over high heat bring the cooker to high pressure. (This is when jiggle-top cookers make lots of noise. On my Kuhn-Rikon, 2 red rings are visible on the pop-up valve.) Lower the heat, making sure to maintain the high pressure, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the pressure by the carrying the cooker to the sink and running cold water over the lid (but not the valve.)
Stir in the spinach and continue to cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring constantly, until the spinach is well wilted and the rice is tender to your bite, but still has texture, 3 minutes or so. Add more broth, stirring, if the rice seems to need a bit more cooking. Season generously with black pepper and stir in the lemon juice. Crumble the goat cheese and stir that in. Season with more pepper and salt if needed. Serve garnished with the remaining goat cheese and the pecans.
Makes 4-6 servings. (The next day, form cold leftovers into rice cakes and cook in a skillet with plenty of olive oil.)