Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cooking Vegetables In Your Instant Pot

Learning to cook vegetables in an Instant Pot can take patience.

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A Quick Status of the Fires
In my last post, we were in the middle of the worst fires California has ever experienced. We are safe now and the fire danger is pretty much over. The air, once filled with ash and smoke, is clearing. And although we are now returning to our normal lives, there are thousands of people in the area whose homes burned to the ground. The community is rallying in many ways, as communities do when tragedies happen. 

First responders have been elevated to gods here in Sonoma county. We ran into three fire fighters in a restaurant last night who finally got a chance to have a meal. We tried to pay for their meals but the waitress smiled and said that someone had beaten us to it. I would guess that wine country firefighters will never have to pay for another meal in their lives!

So thanks for all of your concern, notes, and well wishes. There are many ways to support those affected by the fire. The Redwood Credit Union North Bay Fire Relief Fund is a good one as 100% of donations go directly to the fire victims. Here are some other ways to help the victims. 


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Are you an Instant Pot Junkie?
You bought an Instant Pot and now you want to cook every meal in it. But to be honest, some things are trickier to cook than others. Especially things that are time sensitive. Without the ability to easily sample during cooking, you can sometimes overcook your food. Certain vegetables can easily turn to mush if they are cooked too long and a few bad experiences can frustrate a new Instant Pot owner but with a little practice and good note taking, you'll come to prefer the results from cooking vegetables in your Instant Pot.

Things that Effect Cooking Time
It's very difficult to just give you specific times for cooking each vegetable because there are many factors that can influence the cooking time. Here are a few of them.

#1 - As in conventional cooking, how you prepare your vegetables will affect their cooking time. If a vegetable takes very little cooking time, slice them uniformly and a bit thicker to be safe. 

#2 - Vegetables that come out of your garden are generally more tender than the ones that are bought at the store. Those usually have been picked days (or more) earlier and shipped to the market. In many cases, like kale for example, store bought veggies might take longer to cook.

#3 - Filling your Instant Pot with lots of vegetables could also lead to over cooking because a fuller pot will take longer to come to pressure. This extra time can contribute to over cooking.

#4 - You can adjust the pressure from high to low. Low pressure will cook slower.

#5 - You can cook directly in the pot or cook vegetables on the rack with the water not touching the bottom of the vegetables. Directly in the pot cooks faster.

#6 - Every pot may vary a bit in temp, etc. 

Cooking Times
The most helpful book I have on cooking times is Jill Nussinow's, The New Fast Food. She has nice tables for cooking various vegetables, grains, and beans. I have literally worn out these pages of her book. Many of the times are in small ranges because they will vary based on the things I've listed above. You can make notes on these tables and eventually you will have perfect cooking times for your favorite vegetables. 
 
The Quick Cookers
Quick cooking vegetables can cook as quickly as a minute, even less. Asparagus, broccoli, halved or small Brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets, chard or spinach, corn kernels, garden green beans, diced new potatoes, and zucchini are quick cookers. 

Moderate Cookers
These can take 2 or 3 minutes and include vegetables like sliced beets, whole Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, collards, eggplant, green beans, kale, mushrooms, onions, parsnip, peppers, sliced or diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, diced turnips, and diced winter squash.

Long Cookers
Some vegetables can take a long time. Whole beets, steamed artichokes, or large potatoes can take 20 minutes or more. Stuffed artichokes can take 30 to 40 minutes.

Tip for Quick or Moderate Cooking Vegetables
I usually cook everything at high pressure, directly in the pot. I start at the LOWEST suggested cooking time. When it's done, I immediately hit the off button and release the pressure. As soon as the pressure comes down, I quickly remove the cover. After testing the vegetables with a fork, if they are not done, I just set the cover back on and let them sit another minute in the pot to cook a bit longer. I do not add minutes to the cooking time unless they are as hard as a rock. In that case, I secure the lid and set it on manual for another minute.


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