New Grain Cooking: Barley-Brie Risotto
By Kate Heyhoe
A One-Pot, Fast and Fabulous Meal
This is one of my favorite pressure cooker recipes, and was intended to be part of Cooking Green, but we ran out of space. So I’m sharing it now. It’s a good example of the types of recipes found in the book.
This is an economical, one-pot dish, but my family loves it simply for the way it tastes: rich with creamy Brie cheese and cozy with toothy bites of barley. As a bonus, it meets all my requirements for being green: it’s meat-free, use ingredients you can buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste, and requires little cooking fuel.
For the cook, it’s a model of carefree cooking, needing only 12 minutes of active prep. And if you keep a wedge of Brie in the fridge, most of the remaining ingredients are staples or pantry-ready, so you can whip up an easy, no-brainer dinner without planning or stress. There’s almost no chopping involved, so it’s almost as fast as waiting for take-out (and perhaps more nutritious and delicious). Try it. I think you’ll like it, as a meat-free main course, side dish, or lunch.
A New Green Basics Recipe
Serves 4 as a side; 2 as a main
- Green Goodness: Pressure cooker saves fuel and time. Meat-free entree or side
- Prep/Cooking Times: 12 minutes prep +30 minutes unattended
- Prime Season: All year
- Conveniences: One-pot meal, little chopping, mostly pantry ingredients
Shrink your cookprint with this meat-free main course, which my husband even prefers to traditional risotto. Toothsome, tasty barley cooks in half the usual time with a pressure cooker, and stands in for rice in this robust risotto-style dish. Brie adds a cheesy spin different from the usual Parmesan (but feel free to gild the lily with Parmesan on the side, if you like). Unless the rind is hard or tough, I leave the rind on the brie; it falls apart with heat, but you may remove it if you prefer. Domestic Brie works fine in this recipe, or experiment with other types of cheeses made close to home.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari)
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced (optional)
- 1/4 pound Brie, in small chunks
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the barley. Cook 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally, until toasted. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion softens, about 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the broth and soy sauce (they’ll splatter at first) and add the rosemary, if using.
2. Lock the lid in place. Cook over high heat and bring the cooker to full pressure. Reduce the heat to medium-low, or adjust as needed to maintain even pressure. Cook 18 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Let the pressure drop naturally. The barley should be tender but pleasantly chewy; if not done, add more broth or water and cook a few minutes without pressure, stirring occasionally. (If not serving right away, cover the pot. Reheat before adding the Brie, thinning with more stock if the mixture seems dry.)
3. Stir the Brie into the hot barley until melted and absorbed. Serve with a generous grinding of pepper.
Kuhn Rikon, the same Swiss company behind the Hotpan Cook & Serve Sets, is a leader in energy efficient pressure cookers. Two of their most versatile, quick-cooking products are the Duromatic Pressure Fry Pan and the Pressure Braiser.
I prefer the braiser, because it’s essentially the same pan as the skillet but instead of a long handle, the braiser has two short handles making it more compact for storage. Both are extremely fuel efficient and can replace oven cooking in many instances. At 2-1/2 quarts, they’re the ideal size for smaller recipes and side dishes, and especially handy for couples, small families, and empty nesters. You can use them as a regular skillet, or cook under pressure. The waffle-texture base lets you brown in little or no fat. After browning, you can finish thick chops, small roasts, and chunky chicken pieces by locking on the lid and cooking under pressure.
Another bonus: Pressure cooked vegetables retain more nutrients than cooking by other methods. Weeknight rescue dishes are especially easy. I often make risotto in minutes, without all that pesky stirring at the stovetop; or brown a pork tenderloin, then pressure-braise until perfectly pale pink in the center. If you’re considering replacing a worn out skillet, the Kuhn Rikon Pressure Braiser or Fry Pan make more sense. They’re more versatile, save fuel, and though they come with a ten year warranty, I have a feeling these babies will probably last a lifetime. (By the way, this is not the same thing as a pressurized fryer, the kind used in fried chicken restaurants.)
Gourmet Performance Meets Energy-Efficiency
in Pressure Cooker, Pots, and Skillet
Reviewed by Kate Heyhoe
Fissler cookware has me racing to, and through, the kitchen. Their German precision engineering has cooked up some radically efficient features, saving time for the cook and fuel for the planet. If you want to be a greener gourmet, take a look at the energy-saving aspects of these Fissler pieces, and while the cost is high-end, these pieces should deliver a lifetime of quality for the price.
Smart, Solid Base: Starting from the ground up, Fissler’s proprietary CookStar base integrates nifty energy-efficient aspects, while enhancing the cooking performance on all types of cooktops, including induction.
The CookStar base is slightly concave when cool so that it lies perfectly flat when heated, maximizing the contact between pot base and heat source, thus saving energy. Plus, the super-conductive, extra-thick base heats up quickly and retains heat so well, you can turn the burner down (or off) early and let residual heat in the base finish the cooking. Like a bridge, the base features expansion joints, and consists of stainless steel and aluminum bonded by 1500 tons of heated pressure into one single unit (not triple layers as in other cookware), with no hot spots, so it’s guaranteed never to warp and to stay flat on any type of stove forever. The Cookstar base is built into most of their new cookware, including the items below.
Blue Point’s Pressure is On, or Off: Compared to conventional pots, pressure cookers inherently reduce fuel consumption by cooking foods faster, and they retain more nutrients. Fissler’s Blue Point Pressure Cooker design takes the pressure cooker concept a step further: It’s totally silent during operation, because the cooker seals completely and won’t release steam unless over-pressurized. The less steam released, the cooler the kitchen; and less water is needed because of the lower degree of water loss. Nutrients are also less diluted. Result: healthier, tastier eating and improved energy-efficiency (what’s not to like?). In fact, you can save up to 50 percent of the energy used in conventional cooking, and cook up to 70 percent quicker. Plus, the unit does double-duty: the Blue Point pressure cooker can function as a conventional pot and lid, simply by not sliding the pressure seal button forward. It’s like the hybrid model of pressure cookers, like having two pots for the price of one. (Blue Point pressure cookers also benefit from the efficient CookStar all-stove base, and come in several sizes.)
The Intensa Investment: Fissler designed their Intensa cookware (also with the CookStar base) with unique, efficient features not found in other pots. The lids feature a “ThermoStar” temperature indicator, which turns completely red when the boiling point is reached and partially red when liquids are near boiling (good for low-water, lid-on cooking and simmering). Keeping the lids on helps minimize heat loss, maximize nutrition, and lessens fuel consumption. That’s not all though. Turn the lid ninety degrees in one direction and the pot’s completely sealed. Turn it back and you can pour out liquids with the lid on, using the gently curved rims of the pot. And you don’t need potholders to do it, given the stay-cool handles. The handle on the lid is big, comfortable and open (see the picture), so you can grasp it with your whole hand. Okay, I was more than adequately impressed at this point. Then I discovered that the side handles function as lid holders, too, and the underside of the lids are conical, so condensed liquids drip back into the pot. (No more messy drips from a hot lid, or searching for a place to rest it.) Other details, like stackability and measuring levels (in liters) no doubt helped this cookware win multiple awards for design. I use their stewpot and stovetop casserole pots almost every day now, and they also make saucepans and lower-depth serving pans with the same Intensa features.
A Crisp Idea in Fry Pans: Perhaps the most frequently used pan in the kitchen is the skillet, and the German ingenuity in Fissler’s Crispy Steelux Frypan makes it cool to look at and a hot piece of cookware. Again, it’s got the CookStar base so it heats up quickly and holds heat evenly. The interior has a thick honeycomb texture, so you can fry/pan-grill foods with no or little oil. When I cooked salmon in the skillet, the exterior was perfectly browned, and the skin was crispy-delicious.
Optional Equipment: Fissler makes a nifty splatter shield (usable on all size skillets), that mounts upright on their skillet handles, while you’re peeking or turning the food. It’s handy and less messy than standard splatter guards. Their glass lids let you view food as it cooks, and come with stay-cool handles, so no pot-holder required.
Fissler’s Protect Steelux Frypan boasts their Protectal Plus as the strongest of all nonstick surfaces, with the heating benefits of the CookStar base. But the real test of a nonstick surface is how well it endures over time, without bubbling or peeling. Fissler’s confidence comes with a five-year No Peel Guarantee under any circumstances (check back with me within that time and I’ll give you on update). Be sure to temper the pan when you first use it (it’s easy, takes minutes and you only do it once.) As with all nonstick surfaces, avoid cooking above medium-high heat or heating an empty pan for long periods. (Use the Crispy pan above for high-heat cooking.) So what makes Fissler’s nonstick surface better than others? I asked for details, and I got them. According to their spokesperson:
Fissler’s proprietary Protectal Plus is extremely hard because of its ingredients (ceramic, titanium, and microparticles), and durable because the way the coating is applied and bonded (pretreatment, three-layer composition, and pressure). Competitor models may only use two layers of sealing on a smooth pan surface, and many sealings do not have the microparticles that permit a longer, more effective nonstick lifespan. Ceramic and titanium are present in only the highest-quality coatings, and Fissler’s application technique and proprietary blends of materials set us apart from our competition. Protectal Plus won the highest rating as the strongest nonstick coating from the Stiftung Warentest testing body in Germany (comparable to Consumer Reports in the United States).This translates into better nonstick properties for a longer period of time. Even if the consumer scratches one of these pans, the surface damage is minimized because of the pretreating technique and the hardeners in the coating formula (it will not peel). Protectal Plus is not a DuPont product, and is present only in Fissler pans; it contains PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), but is not unsafe, does not release toxins unless heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and is also not digestable by the human body, so if the user manages to remove small amounts of coating through harsh use, the substance will simply be passed through the body. We guarantee that there will be no chipping or peeling for 5 years of use. Bottom line: Consumers who want a premium nonstick product, that diffuses heat evenly, will last a long time, and is less susceptible to damage, then they’ve found a solution in Fissler’s pans sealed with Protectal Plus.
One last word: Fissler’s Steelux skillet handles stay cool, but can only withstand oven temperatures up to 285 degrees F (okay for warming drawers but not ovens or broilers). If you need a skillet for oven use, I suggest augmenting these with a Lodge cast-iron skillet.
(Fissler’s Intensa cookware, Blue Point pressure cookers and Crispy Steelux frypan range from $120-300 MSRP, and also come in sets. They come with a limited lifetime warranty.)
Energy-Efficiency in a Box
Though pro kitchens (and TV shows) have used it for some time, induction cooking is just now entering the high-end consumer kitchen, and Viking is, not surprisingly, a brand leading the way.
I’m not ready to jump into a whole cooktop powered by induction (can’t afford it, and as a foodwriter, I need to test recipes on all types of fuel using all types of cookware). But from an energy-efficiency perspective, I can’t pass up Viking’s alternative: the portable induction cooker.
Basically, induction cooking works by sending a magnetic field (generated by the cooker) through ferrous metal (as in cookware made of cast iron, steel, or other combination that is magnetically reactive). The reaction creates heat, and it’s this heat that cooks the food. The heat is created from within the pan’s own material; think friction and fast-moving, excited molecules (like the heat generated between your hands when you rub your palms together).
The result: a near instant transfer of energy, with efficient absorption of over 90 percent of this energy (compared to around 50 percent efficiency with gas). Plus, the cooker’s surface stays cool, very little heat is released into the kitchen, and the food can actually cook quicker. Since the cooker surface stays cool, absorbing heat only from the cooking vessel, it’s easy to clean (no cooked on muck). Plus, with this nifty portable unit, I can cook anywhere there’s a plug. Like out on our wide Texas deck, in fresh air, with grazing deer and wild turkeys watching.
The first time I boiled pasta (using a Fissler Intensa pot) or fried steaks (in a Lodge cast-iron chef’s pan) on the induction element, I noticed the differences from conventional electric or gas cooking right off the bat. The water boiled sooner, and the fry pan reached perfect searing heat in a flash. Plus, I had instant control; when I turned the dial from high to low, the unit powered down to the lower setting immediately (essentially adjusting the strength of the magnetic field). No waiting for a hot gas or electric element to slug down in speed. And you can maintain constant simmering and very low temperatures (good for chocolate) better with induction.
When it comes to getting the cook up to speed, induction cooking doesn’t demand anything in the way of a learning curve. At least not like microwave ovens or the dual-fuel ovens that combine radiant heat with microwave cooking. If you can boil water on a gas or electric range, you can cook with induction. But be aware that not all cookware is induction-compatible.
Basic rule: If a magnet sticks to the cookware, it will work with induction. This eliminates glass, copper, and purely aluminum pans. (By the way, Viking describes their own line of cookware, which I have not yet tried, as a 7-ply construction of 18/10 stainless steel and aluminum that extends throughout the vessel, including the sides; suitable for all heat sources and especially efficient with induction.)
I’ll be exploring faster, better ways to cook using induction as I research my upcoming book, New Green Basics, and will post progress here as time goes on. Viking’s portable induction cooker runs around $500, but I expect all induction units will come down in price as they become more popular with the luxury set. But for those who can’t wait, and want to trade up in energy efficiency now, this handy unit brings both fun and fuel-savings to the home kitchen, in a compact package you can carry in one arm.
The Viking Portable Induction unit (1800 watts) runs on a standard 120 volt power outlet, and comes in a sleek stainless steel finish with glass-ceramic surface. Buy it at: