It’s hot. We just finished our first heat wave and we are rolling into the next for what appears to be a long, hot summer. In case you haven’t heard, we are also in the midst of a global pandemic and just hopping out to an air conditioned restaurant is either not yet possible or not something you would want to do even when it is. Like it or not, everyone who wants to eat will have to cook. I have a tiny, Toronto apartment kitchen and no central air or stove hood so cooking when it’s 30C+ is a challenge but I have found ways to survive and none of them involve using my stove. Even boiling a pot of water for pasta can instantly transform my kitchen into a Turkish steam bath.
You might already have one or more of these handy, dandy appliances and if you don’t , you may want to consider investing in one or more of them.
My summer kitchen depends on an electric pressure cooker, some sort of air fryer and a really good blender. I am not throwing in a sous vide circulator because, although amazing, they are expensive and they are not as verstatile as the appliances I am going to talk about.
Already armed with an army of Instant pots and CrispLid that transforms my pressure cooker into a mini air fryer, I jumped at the chance to try out the full sized Ninja Air Fryer, which has a bigger basket than the CrispLid and you can use it to roast , reheat things and dehydrate stuff as well. Add to that, my trusty Ninja Blender and I haven’t even had to remove all the frying pans that i store in my oven…. remember, little Toronto kitchen with limited cupboard space.
Air Fryer Lid and Electric Pressure Cooker
I have a couple brands of electric pressure cookers (I teach with them so stop side eyeing me..I am not a crazy Instant pot lady) and the Mealthy CrispLid which sits on top of the inner pot, transforming it into a little air fryer. Between those two things, I can make stews and braises, cook beets, bake potatoes, roast all of my veggies, air fry all my proteins without affecting the temperature in my kitchen. You can even throw a whole chicken in the pressure cooker and not only do you end up with fall off the bone, tender meat, but you are rewarded with a cup or three of amazing chicken broth to use for something else. You can buy other brands too – as you can see, the CrispLid fits just fine on my Breville pressure cooker and Instant Pot has their own , branded, air fryer lid as well.
You can do just about anything with the CrispLid that you can do in a free standing air fryer, just not as much at one time. It’s as simple as tossing some veg in olive oil and kosher salt, spraying the basket with cooking spray and off you go. I have made our entire dinners in that thing for a solid week before. Salmon, chicken, shrimp, tons of veggies are all I need to survive but only when it’s for two of us. If I want to cook for all three of us, I have to work in batches but it’s still worth it.
You can also just pressure cook plain pasta without having to boil water on the stove – for every 1 lb (454g) of pasta, add 4 cups of water, some salt, a slurp of olive oil or butter to cut down on any foam. Divide the cooking time on the package by 50% minus 2 minutes with a quick release and you end up with pasta that is al dente, just a bit of nice, starchy liquid left if you are doing a sauce or you can rinse it and use it for pasta salads. One word of warning – this works best with hardier shapes like rigatoni, penned, cavatappi etc.
If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can make decent rice in the Instant Pot as well – 1 cup basmati/1 cup water, cook at high pressure for 6 minutes, natural pressure release for 10 and it’s almost as good as my Zojirushi, the Cadillac of rice cookers. In fact, you can cook pretty much all of your grains in there.
Heavy Duty Blender
You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a VitaMix when you can get yourself a Ninja, which is just as good, as far as I am concerned. It will grind up just about anything and I use it for cold soups, smoothies, summery cocktails and sauces. I make fresh salsa by blending tomatoes, lime juice, salt, garlic, some jalapeño, a bit of red onion and tons of cilantro and have even substituted a can of drained San Marzano tomatoes in a pinch. Be careful of the multiple blade insert – I have heard that you can cut yourself quite badly on it, not that I have experienced this myself………
Full Sized Air Fryer
Now that I have tried the Ninja air fryer, I am in love with this machine and I will admit that last night, I had both air fryers going – I did some potato wedges and then thew the chicken thighs in the ninja and cooked a batch of zucchini and bell peppers using the CrispLid. I made an Aji Verde sauce using my Ninja blender so the entire meal was done without having to turn on the window AC or my table top kitchen fan that I usually depend on all summer.
I haven’t tried to dehydrate or roast in it yet, but I am in love with the air fryer feature. It’s quiet, it’s powerful, it cooks really evenly and it’s a really decent sized capacity. I can fit in my Instant Pot inserts like my 7″ stainless little pie pan for stuff that needs a solid bottom. I have also been reheating leftovers using the reheat button with great success. I love that it’s a taller, thinner profile than many other air fryers that tend to be shorter but have more girth and take up too much counter space. It has not been put away since I unpacked it and I think I can say that we are now in a very serious relationship. If you already have an air fryer you love, get it out and start using it if you have forgotten about it!
Air Fried Chicken Thighs with Aji Verde
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
Bone in , skin on chicken thighs – 1 or 2 per person
Tajin – delicious Mexican Chili/Lime dry seasoning or another dry rub of your choice
sprinkle a generous amount of Tajin on your chicken thighs, front and back and throw in a ziplock to marinate all day or overnight in the fridge.
When it’s time to cook them, spray the basket of your air fryer with cooking spray or dip a paper towel in a bit of oil and oil the basket. Set temp to 390F and cook for about 10 minutes, skin side up. Remove the basket and use tongs to flip the chicken, skin side down and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your thighs. If you have a thermometer, they should read about 165F or the juices should run clear.
The size of your air fryer will determine how many you can cook at once – the Ninja took 5 decent sized thighs and my CrispLid can do 3 or 4 if they are small
Remove to a platter and spoon Aji Verde over the top.
Aji Verde Sauce: makes enough for at least 6 to 8 servings and you will put it on everything
2 fresh jalapenos, including seeds and ribs if you like it spicy, chopped (remove seeds if not)
1 tbls aji amarillo paste – feel free to substitute another chili paste or hot sauce to taste if you have to
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbls crumbled feta
1 medium clove garlic, minced or grated
1 tbls vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup mayonnaise
koshers salt and black pepper to taste
Combine jalapeños, aji amarillo, cilantro, cheese, garlic, oil, vinegar and lime juice in a blender or small food processor. Blend on high speed until a smooth paste forms. Add mayo and blend until smooth and fully incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, taste and season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Store in the fridge.
Roasted veg – I just made potato wedges (390F for 15-18 minutes), zucchini (390F for about 10 minutes) and roasted peppers cut in half and seeded (390F for about 10 minutes). All were tossed in a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and I used a favourite spice rub on the potatoes.
I received a Ninja Air Fryer to try out and I will write a full review of it on my blog, The Yum Yum Factor, once I play with the other features As always, all opinions are very much my own.