When writer, speaker, and registered dietitian Jill Nussinow offered to send me a copy of her new DVD Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes, I said yes faster than you can pressure cook a potato. I’ve been a fan of pressure cooking for years and often write here about what a time-saver my cooker is. Since I grew up watching my mother use hers, I never felt the fear of pressure cooking that some people do. My first pressure cooker was one of the jiggly type, but I became an even bigger fan when I bought my newer model. Modern pressure cookers are much less scary than their ancestors; they no longer hiss and puff steam like metal dragons, and most have at least three safety valves built in so there’s no danger of it exploding and showering you with scalding split-pea soup. But old fears die hard, and I still hear of people who won’t use a pressure cooker no matter how much time and energy it would save. (And it would definitely save a lot of both!)
So I appreciate all of Jill’s work teaching people about the safety, nutrition, and speed of pressure cooking. For those of us who aren’t able to attend one of her classes or cooking demonstrations, her DVD is a great chance to watch her in action. In it, she covers all the basics that you need to know as she prepares 14 dishes (including two desserts). The DVD includes a booklet with the complete recipes so that you can easily make the recipes at home. Everything Jill creates looks delicious, particularly the Spiced Red Rice with French Green Lentils and the Garlicky Green Bean Potato Salad, but when I saw her make Herbed Polenta in just minutes, I knew what I would be making.
I love polenta and have cooked it in several ways, including in the microwave, but I’ve got to tell you that none of those ways were as easy as making it in the pressure cooker; it came out lump-free without all the stirring that other cooking methods require. I stirred the water as I poured the polenta into the cooker and stirred it again after it was cooked, and it was thick and smooth. After pouring it into two 8-inch pans to cool, I cut it into cubes and toasted them in a non-stick skillet. Jill’s recipe called for fresh herbs, most of which I had in my garden, and the resulting polenta was probably the most flavorful I’ve ever had. While the polenta cubes stayed warm in the oven, I made up a quick sauté of beans, mushrooms, and some baby bok choy from my garden to go on top.
Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choy
Since the polenta is so flavorful, I kept the seasoning in this vegetable and bean sauté very light, allowing the freshness of the ingredients to shine.
- 1 recipe Herbed Polenta, below
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, chopped (or a combination of colors)
- 8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 6 ounces baby bok choy, sliced
- 1 14-ounce can kidney or cannelloni beans, drained (or beans of choice)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
- Optional: Vegan Parmesan
- Make the polenta according to the directions below. After polenta is firm, cut into cubes and either broil them on an oiled baking sheet or brown them in a non-stick pan, turning after one side is brown. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- In a large non-stick skillet, sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes, until it softens. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms and add a sprinkle of salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until mushrooms soften. Add the broth, bok choi, beans, and basil, stir well, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, until bok choy is wilted but still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in vinegar. Serve atop polenta cubes, sprinkled with vegan Parmesan, if desired.
Cooking time (duration): 45
Number of servings (yield): 5
Topping alone: 135 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (4% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 27mg Sodium; 7g Fiber. Weight Watchers Core / 2 Points
Polenta and Topping: 346 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (3% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 462mg Sodium; 14g Fiber. Weight Watchers Core / 6 Points
Herbed Polenta (from Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look by Jill Nussinow)
Jill reserves half the basil and parsley to sprinkle on top of the polenta after cooking, but I stirred it all in at the beginning. She also includes 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil but notes that it is optional; I left it out.
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil (I used 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped oregano
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- Bring the water to a boil in the cooker. Stirring, sprinkle the polenta into the water. Add the garlic, salt, bay leaf, half of the basil and parsley, the oregano and rosemary. Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Immediately lower the heat to maintain pressure for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the pressure come down and release any remaining pressure after 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir the polenta well. If the polenta seems too thin, simmer while stirring for a few minutes.
- Sprinkle with remaining herbs and serve as is or pour into pie pans to cool. When cool, cut into slices or brush with oil and pan sauté or grill.
Cooking time (duration): 25
Number of servings (yield): 5
Polenta alone: 211 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (2% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 435mg Sodium; 7g Fiber. Weight Watchers Core / 4 Points