As longtime readers of this blog could probably tell, my pressure cooker is my indispensable kitchen tool. There is no way I could write this blog, work 40 hours a week, spend any real time with Lilli and write my weekly Four Questions without it. I was a fan before having a baby, and now I’m even more of an evangelist.
I felt I had to tone down my pressure cooker propaganda after two idiot brothers filled a pair of them up with ball bearings and explosives and used them to terrorize the finish line of the Boston Marathon this past April. I wasn’t alone; Williams Sonoma stores in Boston pulled the pots from their shelves in the aftermath of the attacks. But it’s been 5 months now. We’ve had concerts and benefits, and things have mostly returned to normal. It’s time to get back on the pressure cooker band wagon.
Take this wheat berries, chard and pomegranate molasses recipe from Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottlenghi’s Jerusalem. In fact, that’s actually what I’m cooking in the photo from that Globe article about said cookbook. What you cannot see, including Lilli’s Exersaucer as she is my kitchen pal, is that I made the recipe in my pressure cooker. As the recipe is written in the cookbook, you need to cook the dish for 60 to 70 minutes. A Sunday afternoon recipe, as I would say. But, if you have a pressure cooker, the recipe will take you 20 minutes. And there you have it: Like magic, a quick weeknight meal.
There is one thing I would change within this phenomenal dish: Soak the wheat berries overnight. I’m not sure why the authors don’t instruct you to, but you really need to soak wheat berries. I clean my chard by soaking the leaves (and stems) in a large bowl of cold water on the counter as I assemble the rest of my ingredients. If your chard is very dirty, remove the leaves from the bowl of water, then tip the gritty water into the sink, give the bowl a good rinse, and repeat the cold water soak. You can do this second soak while you prep your leeks.
Lilli gets very upset when I release the pressure cooker’s valve, so I have to wait until she’s out of the room to do that step. And, unfortunately, I’ve been having some trouble lately with the sealing ring – turns out they break after constant use over a six-year period. So of course, the pot depressurized too soon when the Globe photographer was here and I ended up sending him home with, um, extremely chewy wheat berries. The dish was still delicious; just too chewy.
On Sunday we brought some friends who just had a baby some lasagnas, a Caesar salad and a plum torte. We sat and visited while she nursed and were entertained by her older children. We talked about getting food on the table at a reasonable hour, after school and playdate pick-ups. ”Pressure cooker, pressure cooker, pressure cooker,” I told her. “It will change your life.” Risotto in seven minutes. Soup in six. Dried beans cooked in under 15. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if I didn’t own a pressure cooker. I wouldn’t have the time to write it if I didn’t.
But just in case you don’t own a pressure cooker and want to make this dish, I’m including the original instructions as well as my own variation on the recipe.
Wheat berries & Swiss chard with pomegranate molasses from Jerusalem
1 1/3 lb/600 g Swiss chard or rainbow chard
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced (3 cups/350 g in total)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
About 3 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Scant 1 ¼ cups/200 g hulled or unhulled wheat berries
2 cups/500 ml stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Greek yogurt, to serve
The night before you make this recipe, soak your wheat berries in a bowl of water on the counter.
Separate the chard’s stalks from the green leaves using a small, sharp knife. Slice the stalks into 3/8-inch/1cm slices and the leaves into ¾-inch/2 cm slices.
Heat the oil and butter in the bottom of your pressure cooker, or, a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chard stalks and cook for 3 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the sugar, 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, and the wheat berries and mix well. Add the stock, ¾ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Close the lid on the pressure cooker. When it pressurizes, cook for 20 minutes, then release the valve. Alternately, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook over low heat, covered, for 60 to 70 minutes.
The wheat should be al dente at this point.
Remove the lid and, if needed, increase the heat and allow any remaining liquid to evaporate. The base of the pan should be dry and have a bit of burnt caramel on it. Remove from the heat.
Before serving, taste and add more molasses, salt and pepper if needed; you want it sharp and sweet, so don’t be shy with your molasses. Serve warm, with a dollop of Greek yogurt.