5. PRESSURE COOKING
Food cooked in a pressure cooker requires very little water and time, which means that vitamins and minerals are kept intact. The cooker seals in steam created by the boiling liquid, which intensifies the flavors. This means that you won't need to add any oil or fat for taste or richness. You barely need to season the food either. Soups and stews that would usually take hours to simmer on the stove or a whole chicken can be ready in 15 minutes, rice in five and most vegetables in about three.
Best candidates: Artichokes, potatoes, beans, beef, chicken, lamb, risotto, soups and stews.
Equipment: There are three types of pressure cookers: the old-fashioned "jiggler" or weight-valve; the developed weight-valve; and the spring-valve. All of these valves serve as a pressure regulator and tell you when it's time to adjust the heat. (They all feature safety valves that allow excess pressure to escape, and most have safety locks that make them impossible to open until the pressure has fully dropped.) The spring-valve is the most precise and easiest for beginners to use. Pressure cookers range in price from $30-$300. (The Duromatic Non-Stick Pressure Cooker Frypan from Kuhn Rikon doubles as a conventional frying pan. It holds 2.1 quarts and is 9 inches wide. Made of stainless steel, this spring-valve model has a unique titanium nonstick system and a "helper handle" for easy lifting, and comes with a cookbook. $156; call 800-662-5882 for info.)
* Use a timer when pressure cooking. This method cooks so quickly that every second really counts.
* Don't fill your cooker more than two-thirds full. When cooking foods that expand, such as beans or rice, fill only halfway to allow for the buildup of steam and pressure.
* Be very careful when opening the lid. Never put your face over the pot because of the heat of the steam.
Try this: Beef Stew With Orange and Rosemary: In a 5-quart pressure cooker, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on high heat. Add 1 1/2 pounds lean beef cut up into 1-inch cubes and cook until well browned on all sides. Remove and set aside. Reduce heat and add 1 chopped onion, 1 clove garlic and 2 tablespoons beef broth. Cook about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup more of beef broth, 1/2 cup dry red wine, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, one bay leaf and black pepper to taste. Stir well to dissolve tomato paste. Add beef. Close lid and bring pressure to high. Reduce heat as needed. Cook for 15 minutes.