The Chop Wizard

I know, I know, the only cutting tool a chef really needs is a sharp knife.  Chopping an onion is tearfully breezy.  Do you remember in Julie & Julia (2009) where Julia Child (Meryl Streep) has to practice cutting onions in order to compete with the dude chefs?

via GIPHY

Knife skills are basic as far as a chef is concerned.

Here’s the thing, though: I ain’t a chef.  My knife skills are distinctly amateur, and I get really tired of chopping vegetables.  Like, the prospect of dicing a bell pepper is exhausting to me.  Enter the one, the not-so-only Vidalia Chop Wizard.

This $20 plastic and metal marvel makes short work of vegetable chopping.  You place your vegetable chunk on the metal grate, then use the white plastic lid to push it through the grate into the clear plastic bin below.  Depending on the degree to which the food fights the process, the Chop Wizard’s pushing motion makes a substantial, sometimes very loud thunk as the two halves of the device become one.  The gadget’s two grates make it possible to chop foods into satisfyingly regular half- or quarter-inch dice.

I use this thing all the time, in recipes like Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup, where the prep is way easier with the Chop Wizard than it would be without.  If you are considering this handy tool, ignore the cheesy sticker/label, do not use it on a wood surface (wood can end up imprinted with the shape of the round plastic feet), and make sure that any sweet potato planks you chop are relatively thin.  Enjoy!

Instant Pot Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup

I gave my husband, D, an Instant Pot Ultra for his birthday last month, and for a short but real time, I was scared of it.  Pressure cookers are dangerous, right?  Steam could just pour out and scald me any time, right?  Wrong.

Now that I’ve actually read some of the documentation and used the thing a little, I know that the gadget that Kevin Roose of the New York Times called “this holiday season’s must-have gift — a Furby for foodies” is perfectly safe and eminently predictable.  Our four-year-old daughter is way more volatile than the Instant Pot.  (Then again, maybe that’s not that high a bar.  Or low a bar?  Not totally sure this expression makes sense in this case, but, you know, just go with me here.)

And now, I am riding the Instant Pot wave to deliciousness.

Today, I tried making black bean soup in the Instant Pot.  I incorporated a bag of “Cauliflower Crumbles” (aka “riced” cauliflower) that I had bought on impulse this week.  Cauliflower is, as the whole trend to “rice” it, implies, relatively neutral in flavor.  D and I have used it before as (1) the base for creamy mash, (2) in potato soup, and (3) roasted in steak or florets form with salt and cumin.  I figured it would take on the strong flavor profile of the black beans well and would add a little bulk to the soup.

I knew the resulting soup would be healthy — or, perhaps more correctly, healthful.  It was also pretty darn tasty.  M, the four-year-old, ate it (although she needed me to spoon it for her, a request that has become more frequent since six weeks ago, when twin siblings A and H were born.  Fair enough, don’t you think?).  After tasting this soup, husband D wondered out loud whether he could bring it in for the lunch he has signed up to provide for 8-10 coworkers next month.  (Answer: sure.  It’ll be easy to bring the Instant Pot along to work if D wants.  Note that he drives there; he has no public transportation to negotiate.  This is key.  My friend H has been given an Instant Pot by her boss, but it’s at work — two subway rides and one commuter rail ride away from her Brooklyn home.  Meanwhile, she was inspired/compelled/possessed to open the box by CUTTING OFF THE PLASTIC CARRYING HANDLE.  That appliance is never going to see Brooklyn.)

Returning to my point: three out of my five family members (including me, naturally.  Is it still cool to say “natch?”  No?  Asking for a friend.) gave this recipe a thumbs up.  The twins did not express an opinion.

 

Instant Pot Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup | serves 10 | about 1 1/2 cups per serving | WW FSP 1 per serving (according to the in-app recipe builder; I tend to count this as a zero point food)

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (The Chop Wizard can help, as always)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 1 large carrot, chopped small
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pound dry black beans, rinsed
  • 16 oz. cauliflower crumbles (cauliflower, diced or riced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken broth (for vegan version, substitute vegetable broth)

Instructions

Add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot and close.  Stir it if you are so moved.  Seriously.  That’s all the prep there is here.

Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes; then use natural pressure release.  With pressure build and release, cooking time ends up being over an hour.  Open the lid and hunt down and remove the bay leaves.  Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce if you like.

Serve with toppings.  Put them all in bowls and pass them around the dinner (or lunch) table.  Possibilities:

  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar
  • chopped cilantro
  • diced avocado
  • tortilla chips or strips
  • lime wedges for squeezing