Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Chokin’ Under Pressure April 6, 2010

Filed under: easy,locavore,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:59 pm

getting to the heart of the matter

whistle for your thistle

This past Saturday was advertised as the last market day for Texas artichokes.  I’ve got my fingers crossed, however, that Miguel Ortiz’ artichoke farm in Brownsville may show up this coming weekend with some stragglers.  We’ve already enjoyed a few ‘chokes (kinky!) but of course we crave more, more, more!

Just in case you get your little paws on a few thistley globes, here’s my pressure cooker method for cookin’ em up.  I season the cooking water and the finished artichokes need no further enhancement.  They’re even great cold.

I’m chokin’ bigtime on springtime!


  • 3 or 4 good-sized artichokes
  • ½ cup organic white vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the quart bottle is usually the best value.
  • 2 quarts water
  • splash of organic or local olive oil.  I love Spanish Villa Blanca organic and remember to check out Texas Olive Ranch at our farmers markets.
  • 1 Tablepoon kosher salt.  I prefer Diamond Crystal.
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed or 1 stalk of local green garlic, cut into several lengths
  • a few small pieces of celery.  I bought my little bunch from Ringger Family Farm at Barton Creek farmers market.
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1 or two strips of local or organic lemon peel
  • 1 bay leaf—grow it!

Put all the ingredients except the artichokes into a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Prep the artichokes by first cutting a slice off the stem end with a sharp chef’s knife.  Next cut off about an inch off the top.  Then take your kitchen shears and snip the remaining tips off the leaves.  As you trim each artichoke, drop it into the pot.  When all your ‘chokes are ready, lock the lid ono the cooker and bring it to high pressure over high heat.  Lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook the artichokes for 15 minutes.  If you’re cooking 3 rather large globes they may need a few more minutes to tenderize.

When the time’s up, remove the cooker from the stove and place it outside for 10 minutes to let the pressure drop.  If the weather’s chilly, which it ain’t right now, you can get away with leaving the cooker in the house.  Otherwise, I like to put that extra heat outdoors.

Remove the artichokes from the water and give ’em a little shake upside down to remove excess liquid.  Serve as soon as they’ve cooled enough to handle.


Green(s) Tasso–Sustainable Sustenance from Dai Due March 17, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,easy,locavore,meat,pressure cooker,tasso,thrift,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:48 pm

emerald I'll eat that

Dai Due‘s nitrate-free tasso, fashioned from seasoned and smoked Richardson Farms local grass-fed pork, likkered up my pot o’ greens as only pig parts can.  Pressure-cooked for 20 minutes with a bay leaf to flavor a hearty broth, the tasso pieces yielded plenty of meat, picked off in shreds to be added back later.

Into the brew I tossed Texas-grown, Texas-sized collards and mustard greens, only 99¢ a bunch at Central Market and HEB, local turnips, cubed, one chopped local onion, a few organic garlic cloves, smashed and chopped, and some salt.  The pressure cooker required only 8 minutes to tenderize the mighty leaves and roots.  A pinch of turbinado sugar and two capfuls of organic apple cider vinegar later (Whole Foods brand in the quart bottle is usually the best buy), I returned the tasso meat to the mix and had myself a fine bowl of greens, peppered aplenty.

Save the fat, too.  Chopped and rendered, would-be-discards (yes, after boiling into broth) become rich crumbs that dissolve instantly in your mouth.  A fine, fatty garnish, especially for a starchy side like polenta, which creates a comforting landing for a mess o’ greens.  I buy Arrowhead Mills organic yellow corn grits and bake them up into a plushly yielding mound using Paula Wolfert’s oven method, a simple technique requiring minimal effort from the cook.

Wear your green while eatin’ your greens—for good luck—and no pinches!


Dal Duo December 29, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,fast,Indian,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:17 pm

dueling dals---mung dal left, urad dal right

All dalled up and nowhere to go.  Nowhere I need to go right now anyway, and that’s great ’cause it’s cold and wet out and holidays—and rhinovirus round-robin– have done done me in.  Here are two different Indian-style dals to warm your hearth and belly.  The first, a mung dal based creamy chowder chunked with plenty of radishes (softened to mellowness), comes together straightforwardly.  Urad dal provides the base for the second soup, the small skinned and split beans swimming swimmingly with diced kohlrabi, caressed by silky slips of spinach.  Though requiring multiple steps, the assembly is not tricky, and the process yields a flavor and texture quite distinct from the mung dal potage, despite the a similar brassical and leafy constituency.

All that and dal is a cheap source of good nutrition, too.  I usually buy mine at Fiesta because I don’t make it up to MGM as often as I’d like.  The pressure cooker makes quick work of a pot of legumes, but you can simmer these soups the old-fashioned way if you’re not pressure-equipped.  Boil the dals 20 to 30 minutes before adding your vegetables, then continue to simmer until the base is cooked before finishing the recipe.

If you’ve got basmati rice on hand, enjoy it with these dals.  I always have a cooked pot of Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice in the fridge, so that’s my usual dal dais.

mung dal and rice


  • ¾ cup mung dal, picked through for pebbles and the like, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf.  Grow your own if you can.  Bay needs little care.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee or butter, plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 1 or 2 bunches of local radishes, sliced about 1/6 ” thick.  If the greens look sprightly, chop ’em up, too.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dried red chile.  Crush it up for some heat or leave it whole to accommodate the kids.
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder.    This stinky spice, with its natural antiviral compounds, shows promise as an H1N1 fighter.
  • ½ to a whole local onion, quartered and slice thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • chopped fresh local cilantro to taste.  A cool weather treasure around here.

Combine the mung dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, turmeric, salt and 1 Tablespoon butter in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure on high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the radishes and greens, if using.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid—be careful!

While the dal rests, heat the ghee and cumin seeds in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  If your stove top is electric, you can use the same burner to save energy.  Add the chile.  When the cumin smells as toasty as you like, add the asafetida, followed quickly by the onion slices.  Add the salt and stir it all around.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well-browned.  When fully browned, stir the onion mixture into the dal, put the lid on the pot and let the dal sit for a couple minutes to infuse.

Stir in the cilantro and serve, ladled over rice if you wish, with a squeeze of lemon if desired.

This soup is seasoned with a wet masala .  (Masala means spice mixture.)  The technique is easy and results in a more mellow rendering of the spices’ essence.


  • ¾ cup urad dal, picked through for pebbles and such, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • dab of ghee or butter, plus 3 or 4 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 3 medium-sized local kohlrabi, trimmed and very well peeled, diced
  • 1 bag Cora Lamar’s Texas-grown savoy spinach (10 ounces).  Triple washed and ready to cook, you needn’t prep it further.  Available at Central Market, today it’s on sale for $2.50 a bag.
  • 1 local onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • medium pecan shell-sized lobe of ginger root, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 medium-sized mild whole green chile, if available, halved, seeded and sliced.  You probably won’t be finding any more local peppers at our markets right now.  If you’ve got one leftover, use it.  If not, just leave it out.

Combine dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, turmeric and dab of ghee in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure over high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the kohlrabi and spinach.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid, carefully!

While the dal is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of ghee with the onion slices and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small to medium skillet.  Stir and cook, regulating the heat as necessary to thoroughly brown the onion.  This will take a while, don’t try to rush it.  Meanwhile, grind the whole spices (cumin through peppercorns) in a spice grinder.  Combine with the ginger and a few tablespoons of water.

While the dal pot enjoys its second 10 minute rest, use the hot burner to heat up another couple of tablespoons or so of ghee in a medium skillet (you can use a small one if you’re out of peppers).  When the ghee is hot, dump in the asafetida, followed quickly by the chile slices.  Saute the peppers until they pick up some brown spots, then add the wet ground spice mixture.  Stir and fry until the masala dries but hasn’t scorched.  Stir the spices and onions into the cooked dal and let the soup rest for a couple minutes before correcting the salt, if needed, and serving with rice, if desired.


The Green Greenie—(don’t) Throwaway Puree December 25, 2009

Filed under: Indian,pressure cooker,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

sak it to me!

About the only food I won’t reuse around here is a dead guppy (What’s up with that, Santa?).  Actually the kindergartner is saving the carcass to take to the Austin Nature and Science Center‘s trade counter.  I hope he doesn’t forget, cause I’m not cookin’ it!

Come to think of it, I don’t make a salad out of banana peels either (like they do in Laos).  And I eat far too much citrus to freeze or candy all that zest and peel.  But I will not throwaway greens unless unfortunate circumstances have allowed them to languish beyond flaccidity.  Smoothly combined with the ever-versatile broccoli stems I accumulate, assorted winter vegetable tops yield a nutritious and nummy Indian-spiced puree to stir into rice or scoop at with pappadams, tortilla chips (we love El Milagro unsalted) or crostini.

Get out your 6-quart pressure cooker for this dish.  Pressurized steaming produces a more evenly cooked potful more quickly than conventional steaming.


  • lots of assorted greens.  My last batch included the tops of kohlrabi, carrots, beets and turnipsWash them very well (nobody likes gritty greens) and trim the leaves off the stemsYou need enough to nearly pack up your pressure cooker (with a steamer insert).
  • 2 large or 3 or 4 smaller broccoli stems, peeled ruthlessly and diced
  • a couple small to medium potatoes, organic and/or local (very hard to find local right now, but you might get lucky), diced.  I don’t peel spuds for this dish (or almost any other).
  • a couple of thin slices—“coins” as Barbara Tropp would say—fresh ginger root.  I almost never peel ginger.  You decide.  If you’re out of the fresh stuff (it happens), you can use a ½ teaspoon or so of dried ground ginger.
  • a couple cloves of garlic, peeled
  • heaping ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt.  I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee.  See my simple instructions.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • onion slices from ½ or more of a medium or larger local onion—still available at our farmers markets!
  • local hot chiles, 1 to 4, to taste, whole or chopped, as desired
  • 1 teapsoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 3 Tablespoons organic or local (Promised Land) heavy cream.  Organic Valley is great.  Click for a coupon.
  • lemon wedges—local backyard lemons are readily available at the farmers markets, and maybe even your own neighborhood, right now.

Pour about ½ cup water into your cooker and place a steamer basket inside.  Pack in the greens, leaving some room for the broccoli and potato.  On top of that lay your ginger slices and garlic, then sprinkle with the ground spices and salt.  Bring to high pressure over high heat, then lower the heat to just maintain the pressure and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure go down for 10 minutes before releasing the quick-release pressure mechanism before lifting off the lid.  Stand back from the steam!

In 2 batches, puree the greens in a food processor with the cooking water.

Heat up your ghee in a large (12″) skillet and add the cumin seeds.  Toast the cumin to your taste, then toss in the onion slices and whole chiles.  Stir and cook until the onion is well-browned, adding chopped chiles about halfway through, if using, then add the pureed greens.  Stir and cook, scraping the pan frequently, until the puree thickens and dries to the point of pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Stir in the garam masala and cream, correct the salt if necessary, and serve.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over your helping if you wanna.



  • 6 ounces paneer, cubed.  You can also use extra-firm tofu–not the least bit traditional in India, but increasing in popularity there as elsewhere.

Brown the paneer or tofu cubes on all sides in ghee.  Cook the pureed sak just enough to heat through before blending in the garam masala and cream—you want a little looser texture.  Gently fold your cubes into the Sak and adjust the salt.