Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pumpkin, Turmeric, and Ginger Soup

There were a lot of things I could have done with the pumpkins I cooked for this other post, but with fall weather slipping back into the Bay Area and another impending rain storm due next week, I really wanted to make a soup. A lot of recipes out there really lean toward sweet, with additions like brown sugar and apples, but I wanted to keep it savory. It's really simple, and can be adjusted to better suit your tastes with more or less ginger, added paprika, whatever makes your heart happy.
Serves 8


  • 1 medium or 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 small stalk celery and 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger (a Microplane is ideal)
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh yellow turmeric (you can find this and the fresh ginger at a good supermarket)
  • 2 lbs cooked pumpkin (or 2 15 oz cans, or one 28 oz can, just make sure it's plain and not with added pie spice)
  • 4 c vegetable or chicken broth 
  • 2 c water
  • 1/3 c heavy cream
  • garnish: sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Warm the butter or oil in a stockpot over medium heat and add the onions. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt on them. Keep the heat around medium low so you don't caramelize the onions, just let them sweat a little and become translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the celery, carrot, ginger and turmeric, and soften another two or three minutes. 
  3. Add the pumpkin and stir to combine with the veggies, sauteeing for another minute or two.
  4. Add 1/2 tsp black pepper. If you're using low sodium broth, add another 1/4 tsp salt. 
  5. Pour in the broth and the water, bring to a boil,  reduce to a simmer and let cook, covered, for about 30 minutes for everything to come together.
  6. Use an immersion blender to puree everything together. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat and stir in cream. 
  7. If desired, swirl in some sour cream and sprinkle on some toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy! 

Sugar Pie Pumpkins, oven or pressure cooker

My CSA box has brought lots of lovely goodies to my door, and since it's customizable I was able to add a second pumpkin to this week's delivery. I thought it would be a great chance to play around with different ways to prep them and see what works for me. Sugar pie pumpkins are the kind you want to buy to eat, as opposed to the giant Jack-O-Lantern kind. Ironically, they're not as sweet as, say, a butternut squash, which explains why those are so much more popular. Each of these was about 2 lbs and yielded about 1 lb of edible pumpkin. Summary of directions at the bottom. 

I decided to try oven roasting and my electric pressure cooker. 

To oven roast, I first started pre-heating the oven to 425 (it didn't set off the smoke detector today--woo hoo!) and quartered the pumpkin. You have to have a VERY sharp knife for this and do it carefully. Don't try to cut through the stem because it's extremely hard. Put the tip of the knife in just below it and cut down from there, then turn the pumpkin over and complete the circular cut. Pull the two halves apart. 

With a big spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Separate them, tossing the stringy stuff in the compost and saving the seeds to roast later. Yumma yumma. 

Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly oil the foil. You can use cooking spray, but I think it tastes funky. I just drizzle on a little olive oil and spread it around with my fingers. You can use a neutral tasting oil if you're going to use the pumpkin for pie or another dessert, but I'm going to make a savory soup. 

When the oven reaches 425, put in the pan and set a timer for 20 minutes. After that time, turn the pieces over and put them back in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes and start checking the pumpkin for doneness at that point, adding 5-10 more minutes at a time if needed. It's done when the skin get soft and a fork goes into each piece very easily.

Remove from the oven when done and let cool before peeling, or serve as is as a side vegetable. I hated winter squash as a kid but learned to like it eating it just simply roasted like that. Puree if you want to use it for desserts, or cut in chunks for other things. 

For the electric pressure cooker: set the rack in the inner liner and add 1 cup of water. 

Put the whole pumpkin on the rack--yep, the whole thing--and set the steam program for 12 minutes (more time for a pumpkin over 2 lbs, less for smaller or a pumpkin cut in half). Secure the lid. After the 12 minutes are up, let the pot cool down for another ten minutes and then carefully release any remaining 

When you open the lid, voila! Let it cool down before you try to peel it. 

Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle. As above, cut up the pumpkin in chunks and serve with your favorite seasonings or puree for other recipes. Here are both after they were cooked:

So, which method did I prefer? I really enjoyed the pressure-cooked one more. The texture was better and the flavor wasn't any less sweet than the roasted one, even though that technique is supposed to caramelize the natural sugars. HOWEVER, the seeds that were removed before cooking were a lot easier to separate from the yucky stringy stuff, so next time I'll cut it in half and remove them before using the PC...I'll cut back the time to 7 or 8 min. For other squashes like butternut and spaghetti, I'll keep cooking them whole. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Homemade Ricotta Electric Pressure Cooker recipe made with my Instant Pot Duo's yogurt button, yields about 2.5 cups ricotta, takes 30 minutes to an hour depending on how long warming function takes, but no babysitting it. 

I was a little confused when I first found out that you can make ricotta in a pressure cooker, until I figured out that you don't put it under pressure, you just use the yogurt setting to bring the milk gently up to a safe temperature to make the cheese. This is technically not a true ricotta, the name of which means re-cooked because it's made from the whey left over from making mozzarella, but it's delicious and it fits wherever a true ricotta would. 
This is one of my current favorite things to eat, although I think I like it better with a pear instead of an apple. Diced fruit, a teaspoon of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg...perfect as a snack or dessert, or add toasted nuts for a fall version of Ina Garten's breakfast ricotta. Use it in lasagna or cannoli--anywhere you'd use ricotta from the store. You can, of course, make ricotta using a pot on the stove or even a microwave.  I like this option because I don't have to worry about scalding the milk with one of the other techniques. 

All you need are these few ingredients...instead of white vinegar I've tried using lemon juice, but kept having to squeeze more lemons because the ones I had weren't very acidic. I've tried using white wine vinegar, but the kind I can afford left a funny taste in the cheese. You can also use just whole milk, but the texture is better with a little cream. 
Into the Instant Pot or other multi-cooker with a yogurt function, put 

  • 7 cups whole milk and 1 cup heavy cream (or 6 c milk and 2 c cream, or 1/2 gallon whole milk).
Lock on the lid and press the "Yogurt" button. The display should say 8:00, and then you press "Adjust" once so it says "BOIL". Once it comes up to 180 degrees, it will beep and the display will say "YOGT".
 Press the cancel button twice so the display changes to "OFF". Open the lid and use a wooden, plastic or silicone (not metal in a metal bowl) to stir in 

  • 1.25 tsp sea salt
Then slowly add, stirring wi 
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) distilled white vinegar--I use the Tablespoons so I make sure I stir in a little at a time
As the vinegar starts to transform the milk into curds and whey (yup, just like Little Miss Muffet), you won't see the curds but they'll start forming. 

As you stir in the last of the acid, the curdling will become more visible. Let sit for a couple of minutes while you set up the strainer. 

To strain, you can use two layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, both available online or at Whole Foods (other markets should at least have some cheesecloth). 
Set the cheesecloth or bag in a fine mesh strainer set over a deep bowl. This bowl wasn't deep enough, so I had to dump some of the whey into another bowl. Oops! 

Let the curds strain for 5 minutes for softer ricotta, 15 minutes for drier ricotta for making lasagna or gnocchi, or up to an hour for something harder and more paneer-like. 

Enjoy as you would store-bought ricotta, although you might not enjoy that anymore! 

Every time I do it I feel sad that so much whey comes off, but the good news is that you can use that whey in place of water in baked goods and smoothies. It's much more palatable and less acidic than the whey that comes from making Greek yogurt, so you can actually sip some of it if you like. Kinda tasty! 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Weeknight Meal: Beans, Greens, and Sausage in the Electric Pressure Cooker

You know how on Thursdays there's no parking near the good burrito place and a line out their door? Same goes for the cheap Chinese takeout spot, the one with the good chow fun. That's because everyone is tired of cooking, out of groceries, and/or behind on the dishes by Thursday. 

This is one of my go-to meals in that situation, when the only  place I can find parking is at the market or on the weeks that I've actually thought things through and shopped well on Sunday. You can do  it on the stove, of course, but using the electric pressure cooker speeds things up a smidge and lets you take care of emptying that dishwasher while it cooks, since you don't have to babysit it. 

These few ingredients plus half a lemon or a little vinegar are all you need. You could use olive oil, of course, or another kind you like.  Prep time: 5 min. Cook time: about 20 min including saute, coming up to pressure and time under pressure. 


  • 8 heat and eat sausages you like, be they field roast, chicken or pork
  • 1-3 Tbsp olive or avocado oil (use just 1 if using higher fat sausage, use all three if low fat)
  • 1 large shallot (two bulbs, about 1/2 cup), diced small
  • 2 cups (1 can is OK) cooked garbanzo, cannellini or Great Northern beans
  • 1 10-12 oz package of chopped, cleaned kale, chard or mustard greens
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice or wine vinegar
  • a teensy bit of salt
  • optional: a few drops of hot sauce
Make little cuts in two sides of the sausages to allow a little of the juices to come out, then turn on the browning or saute function on the electric pressure cooker (mine is an Instant Pot). Put 1 Tbsp of the oil into the pot and, when it's hot, add half the sausages and brown them on one side. Remove those and brown the remaining sausages. If the sausages are pre-cooked, only brown them on one side so you get some good flavor but don't overcook them. If they're uncooked, go ahead and brown them on two or more sides so they cook through. 

Remove the last sausages. If there isn't much fat in the pot, add 1-2 Tbsp more oil. If there's a ton already, leave it in there. It's yummy! Add the diced shallots and stir to coat with the oil, then let soften for a minute or two. Add the beans, 1/2 cup water or bean cooking liquid, a tiny sprinkle of salt, the lemon juice, the greens, and the optional hot sauce. Give it a good stir and lay the sausages across the top. 
It's OK in this case if the stuff in the cooker comes a little over the Max line because the greens will really cook down. 

Turn off the saute or browning function and seal the lid on the pressure cooker. Set it on high (manual on the IP) for just 5 minutes. When it beeps, do a quick release of the pressure, being super careful not to touch the steam as it escapes. Plate it up and chow down! Top with sour cream if you're so inclined and have a little fruit and chocolate for dessert.