common / Lifestyle

Dinner under pressure

As a child, I remember coming into the kitchen and hearing my mother’s pressure cooker rattling away. It sounded like a runaway steam engine had taken over the kitchen stove. I’d heard stories about pressure cookers blowing up and leaving what was supposed to be dinner all over the ceiling.

So I must admit, I was afraid to use the Fagor pressure cooker I received as a gift, until I realized that modern pressure cookers have been completely redesigned. For example, my Fagor pressure cooker has three safety valves that allow any possible excess pressure to escape, so the cooking experience is completely secure.

The pressure cooker was created by French inventor Denis Papin in 1680. The clunky heavy metal pressure regulator of old that made so much noise was the updated version of his original “marmite de Papin” or Papin Digestor. Fagor has created a sleek, easy-to-use pressure cooker with a temperature device built into the tight-fitting lid with a locking handle. When the lid is properly locked into place, an air- and steam-tight seal is created.

As the cooking liquid in the pressure cooker is heated to the boiling point (212 F), steam is created. Since the steam cannot escape from the sealed pot, intense pressure is created. The internal cooking temperature will vary depending on the different levels of pressure created by the trapped steam.

Foods cooked under high pressure reach a temperature of 250 F, which is 38 F hotter than when food is boiled in a normal pot. This speeds up the cooking process considerably. The intense pressure also reduces cooking time by one-third, which saves energy too. It also keeps your kitchen cool, retains more than 50 percent of the vitamins and minerals in your foods — as well as the natural colors — and can cook without oil to reduce fat and calories. The steam pressure breaks down the fibers in food in a very short time, leaving food moist and succulent, with an intense intermingling of flavors.

The beauty of using a pressure cooker is that you can quickly and easily turn almost any type of produce, grain or cut of meat into a fantastic meal. And don’t forget about desserts, which can be made in half the time.

If you haven’t used a pressure cooker before, my recipe for Pressure Cooker Quinoa Salad is a simple and tasty introduction to this wonderful piece of kitchen equipment.


Quinoa is a complete protein source that also is high in iron, magnesium and fiber. It has a delicate, slightly sweet and nutty flavor, and easily can be used in any recipe that calls for rice or pasta.

Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin. Saponin can make the cooked grain taste bitter if it isn’t rinsed thoroughly just before cooking. Boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, but it’s best to rinse it again. Toasting quinoa after it has been rinsed improves the texture of the grain. You can change this recipe to incorporate your favorite herbs, spices, vegetables and flavorings as desired.

1 cup black quinoa, rinsed
1 teaspoon olive oil plus
more for drizzling (about 2
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 cups of water or
1 large lime or lemon,
zested and juiced
1 1/2 cups of chopped,
raw vegetables (bell pepper,
purple onion, celery, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes,

1. Measure 1 cup of quinoa and place into a fine mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes, rubbing and swishing the quinoa with your hand. Drain.

2. Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker pot (without the lid) over medium-high heat. Add the drained quinoa, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute to let the water evaporate and to toast the quinoa and the spices. Add the water or broth, mixing well.

3. Close and lock the lid according to manufacturer’s instructions. Turn heat to high; when pressure is reached, lower the heat and cook for 1 minute at high pressure (or 2 minutes at low pressure). To release the pressure, turn off heat and wait 10 minutes for steam to release naturally. Then release the remaining pressure by carefully opening the valve. (Even if you hear the pressure releasing completely before the 10 minutes are up, do not remove the lid.)

4. When the time is up, remove the lid and fluff the quinoa gently with a fork. Toss quinoa with the zest, juice, vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

Return to top