Sunday, September 18, 2011



When Larry was a child his Grandmother had a pressure cooker and she used it a lot to can fresh vegetables from the prolific garden maintained by his Grandfather in their yard.  When it was on the stove the pressure cooker would hiss and the tiny valve perched precariously on the top would rock back and forth as the steam escaped allowing tantalizing odors to escape into the air.  

One day this idyllic venue erupted into a bomb!  Larry was just about to enter the kitchen when there was an enormous "whooooof" sound followed by whap, splat, whomp, splat, splat, splat.  When Larry walked into the kitchen the walls and ceiling looked like a Jackson Pollack painting covered with what we refer to as the drip and splatter school of art.  Only this was beans.  Beans on the ceiling, beans on the walls and beans on the windows and counter top.  Beans all over.  Larry's Grandmother ran to him to make sure he hadn't been parboiled by the erupting liquid.  Larry swore on the spot that no matter what, he would never, never allow a deadly weapon like that in his kitchen.  

Flash forward forty years. 

Cooking show.  Featuring a Pressure Cooker.  Larry was about to turn it off, when Elizabeth said, "Wait, they say it's explosion proof."  Larry replied, "Yeah, that's what they say, but I don't believe it.  Death by beans will not be in my future."  Elizabeth went on and on about all the wonderful meals we could make in a nanosecond  and it would be really good for us as we both worked and really didn't have time to cook during the week and it was on sale and we could return it if we didn't like it and we got a free cookbook with it and wasn't it really cute and it kept all of the nutrients in and .... well, you get the idea.  Three days later the doomsday machine arrived.

It was a Fagor Pressure Cooker and worked on the stove.  It had a safety lock on it so it was impossible for it to explode.  The first recipe we did was spaghetti sauce.  Larry refused to be in the kitchen until it was done and then ran in, removed the cooker from the stove and ran out of the kitchen until the pressure returned to normal.  It worked like a dream for over fifteen years.

Now, years later the Fagor Cooker is now replaced by a larger electric Cuisinart; pressure cooking is no longer a 'run for the bomb shelter' event in our family.  We have made many a wonderful meal in these safe to use appliances.  Food cooks amazingly fast.  Cheap cuts of meat become tender and the variations of what can be made in these machines is astounding and food comes out tender, flavors married like old folks celebrating their 60th anniversary.  We can not recommend them enough.  Do your self a favor and buy one.  Use it safely and in good health.  They are no longer an excuse to repaint the kitchen when the beans explode.

Following is the first thing we made.  Spaghetti meat sauce that tastes like it's been cooking all day at a slow simmer and yet it is ready in 8 minutes! Perfect for quick meals.  (We suppose one could make this in a slow cooker; we have just never tried it.)  Here's the recipe that started it for us and is still one of our very favorite Spaghetti meat sauces recipes.  Vivo Italiano (or something like that)!


1 Pound ground beef (We prefer the 97% fat free, but that's for health reasons ... the 80% is just as good.)
1 large onion chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water (We use 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup red wine)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp parsley flakes (2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped)
1/2 tsp Greek Oregano
1/2 tsp sweet basil
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
2 tsp sugar
6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste.

Heat cooker and brown meat in a tiny bit of olive oil.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except tomato paste.  Close cover and cook for eight minutes once cooker has come to high pressure.  Turn off and let pressure return to normal.  Stir in tomato paste and simmer uncovered to desired thickness.  Serve over pasta (we like the extra thin spaghetti).
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  A word to the wise here.  Buy a block of Parmesan and grate it just before using.  (You will never use that canned stuff again!)  When the rind is left, put it in a bag in the freezer and throw it in with meats or stew.  Remove before serving.  Gives a richness and depth to the flavor.

Serve with tomato, avocado and basil salad and some garlic bread sprinkled with fresh parsley.

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