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August brings with it long, hot days and very rushed evenings. In an effort to enjoy every last ounce of summer, most of us try to achieve two things in our kitchens during the weekday madness: brevity and minimal creation of extra heat. To that end, this month's focus is on using the pressure cooker to reach both of these goals.
Pressure cookers trap steam and create a pressurized system that allows food to boil at higher temperatures and, therefore, cook more quickly. Trapping all that steam also means allowing less of that hot stuff into your kitchen. Thus, you can cook meals that used to take an hour or more in a fraction of the time without causing your air conditioner or fan to work overtime. It's pure genius and a real lifesaver for those with busy lifestyles and a desire to eat something other than delivered pizza or Chinese food in the middle of the week.
To begin our focus on the pressure cooker, I'd like to present one of my favorite fast weekday meals. Although this tasty Wild Rice and Veggie Blend can stand on its own as a meal, I like to add some cubed grilled chicken (I like to use leftovers from my favorite grilled chicken recipe) to the blend with the raw vegetables near the end of cooking to warm it through. Add your favorite summer beverage and a fresh fruit salad for dessert and you've got it made in the shade. Under pressure? Not a problem ... anymore!
Heat the oil in a 5-quart pressure cooker (or larger). Add the onion, barley, black-eyed peas and wild rice; stir to roast for a few minutes. Add the white wine, broth, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce and dried oregano.
Close the lid of the pressure cooker and bring to pressure. Stabilize the cooker and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.
After 20 minutes, remove the cooker from the heat and allow to release pressure naturally. Remove the lid and add the vegetables; stir and replace the cover. Allow the mix to rest for 3 minutes before serving.
Yields: 4 servings
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Editor's Note: For more information about pressure cookers, how they work and some tips on how to use them, read the Product Review on Kuhn Rikon's pressure cookers in the January 2000 issue of Seasoned Cooking.