Do I need to shock my vegetables if I am eating them right away?
No, but it can’t hurt. If you are truly ready to sit down to your meal, then tossing the vegetables with salt-fat acid and serving them straight away is perfectly fine. Don’t leave them sitting in a hot heap for longer than five minutes or they will indeed move beyond their ideal texture.
“Shocking” is restaurant-speak for rapidly cooling food. Since you are not cooking massive amounts of vegetables as restaurants do, your cooling down method need not involve the ice bath that lends this technique its dramatic name. You can simply run the vegetables under cold water until they are cool to the touch. If you are eating the vegetables right away, you can skip this step. However, keep in mind that vegetables left to sit in a hot heap in your colander or a bowl will continue cooking and may compromise their vibrant green color and crisp-tender texture if left for more than 5 minutes.
Do vegetables lose vitamins when you blanch them?
Yes, there is always a minimal loss of vitamins when you subject vegetables to any cooking process, so it is important to seek vitamins from raw fruits and vegetables too. But keep in mind that the fibrous roughage (i.e. dietary fiber) and minerals (calcium and iron) in cooked greens are still very good reasons to eat a lot of them. They fill you up and support good digestion like nothing other than a plant can.
1. Bring a large, covered pot of water to a boil.
2. Sufficiently salt the water: 1 tablespoon kosher salt for every 6 cups water (the water must be salty).
3. Using tongs, add the vegetables to the boiling water and submerge below the water line.
4. Do not re-cover the pot. Acids released during cooking can mar the bright green color if they fall back into the pot.
5. Cook for 3 minutes* (the water may not return to a boil, and that is fine), then start testing for crisp-tenderness, which is the ideal texture for blanched green vegetables. They should not taste raw or overcooked to limpness. Older, tougher vegetables may need up to 4 minutes.
Instead of wasting greens, blend them. Put handfuls of greens in the blender. Add a little water or coconut milk if necessary (to keep the blender moving) until the greens are pureed into a smooth consistency. Pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove and store cubes in a sealed plastic bag. Throw frozen green cubes into smoothies, soups, stews, and chili.
For savory flavor cubes try this:
- 3 handfuls loosely packed herb leaves (mix herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley, or just choose one herb)
- 3 handfuls baby spinach or other chopped green
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger (optional)
Combine herbs, greens, garlic, and ginger in a blender until smooth, adding a little water or chicken stock as necessary, again, to keep the blender moving. Pour the puree into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove flavor cubes and store in a sealed plastic bag. Instantly add flavor to your meal by melting frozen flavor cubes in a hot skillet of sautéed vegetables or meat, or melt a flavor cube into a bowl of hot cauliflower rice or soup.
More Tips For Cooking Veggies
FIRST, REMOVE THE TOUGH PARTS:
1 ASPARAGUS: Snap the whitish/purple base off the bottom of the stalks (1 to 3 inches, depending on the thickness of the asparagus; the thicker the asparagus, the more you will need to remove); it will naturally snap off where the vegetable is tender enough to eat.
2 SNAP PEAS/SNOW PEAS: Pinch off the top stem and pull away from the string that runs along the straight side of the vegetable. Note: not all of them have strings, so count yourself lucky if you don’t find any.
3 BROCCOLI RABE: Cut off the bottom 3 inches of the stalk; it’s too stringy to enjoy.
4 BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER: Cut into small florets, keeping at least 3 inches of stalk attached (it is very edible)
5 STRING BEANS: Pinch off the top stem end; leave the “tails” intact.
6 BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Trim off the browned base and any outer leaves that come away with it; cut in half lengthwise
Don’t skimp on the salt!
The water used to blanch vegetables (and cook pasta) needs to taste salty, like the sea. You will need 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 6 cups water in order to make a properly salted pot of blanching water. The small amount of salted water that vegetables absorb during blanching helps bring out their sweetest flavor; using unsalted water will only dilute their flavor. Most of that cooking water goes down the drain, so don’t be concerned about “all that salt.”
Salt + fat + acid = the flavor trifecta.
When seasoning the simplest of foods (like blanched asparagus and string beans or lettuce leaves), you need to remember 3 important ingredients: salt, fat, and acid. These are the building blocks of flavor and together, they make everything taste its best. Consider these combos when looking to season your vegetables: salt, butter, and lemon (we use this combo about 98% of the time); salt, extra-virgin olive oil, and red-wine vinegar; soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and rice vinegar.
Snappy Peas with Orange-Sesame Butter
This orange-sesame butter is addictive and a great seasoning for most green vegetables, particularly snap peas, blanched asparagus, broccoli, string beans, and snow peas.
1 pound snap peas, strings removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Grated zest of ½ orange
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or rice vinegar
1. Bring a large pot of salty water (1 tablespoon of salt per 6 cups water) to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas to the boiling water and submerge below the water line. Cook until bright green and crisp-tender, testing for doneness after 2 minutes. Remove with a wire strainer or drain into a colander set in the sink. Run under cold water until they are cool to the touch.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and orange zest and cook until the seeds just start to turn golden about 2 minutes. Add the snap peas and sesame oil and cook until warmed through. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice or vinegar, and season with a generous pinch of salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Grilling Isn’t Just for Meat
If you’re firing up the grill for meat, it makes sense to cook the entire meal on the grill. From zucchini to sweet potatoes (and even kale), vegetables are amazing with the smoky flavor and charred edges that only a grill can impart. It’s true that some vegetables are easier to grill than others, but with a few tips, you can expertly grill almost anything non-animal.
Heat-stable oil and salt should always be used, lightly coating the vegetables before grilling, then pouring on more oil and salt when the veggies are done. For even more flavor, marinate veggies in the vinaigrette before grilling, or drizzle vinaigrette over warm, grilled vegetables.
Softer vegetables, like mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and bell peppers are easy: Cut into smallish chunks and skewer, or cut into long, wide pieces that won’t fall through the grates. Grill until tender and lightly charred.
The easiest way to grill hard vegetables is to give them a head start. Firm vegetables can be brined before grilling. Or, simply parboil the vegetables before grilling. Potatoes (regular and sweet), carrots, beets, and other root vegetables can be cut into medium bite-sized pieces and boiled in water until just barely tender. Drain the vegetables, toss with oil and salt, then finish on the grill to char the veggies and cook to full tenderness.
Stalks of kale and Swiss chard, even wedges of Romaine lettuce, can be transformed on the grill into smoky, charred versions of their raw selves. Coat lightly in oil and salt, and grill the leaves 4 to 6 minutes (leaves can be ripped from the stalks before or after grilling)
For the least amount of fuss, place single layers of thinly sliced vegetables on a large, lightly oiled piece of foil, then fold the foil around the vegetables like a loose packet. Grill the packet 8 to 12 minutes for quicker cooking vegetables, and 12 to 15 minutes for things like potatoes and onions.
Cooking Leafy Greens Materials
12-inch stainless steel sauté pan with lid
Large mixing bowl (for washing leaves)
Leafy greens (spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, mustard greens, escarole, bok choy, kale, collard greens)
Leafy greens are your ticket to a long, healthy life. It is vital to know how to prepare them well, so you can eat a lot of them.
How To Cook Collard Greens Quickly | Easy Sauteed Collard Greens
Don’t Overcrowd the Skillet
Almost any vegetable can be prepared by slicing the vegetable thinly, heating oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and then sautéing it until tender. Add a little garlic if you like, and finish with sea salt. Easy, right? However, if you want the sautéed vegetables to be genuinely tasty instead of mediocre, here’s the trick you need to know: Don’t overcrowd the skillet.
Use a wide skillet and only sauté a single layer of vegetables at a time. Vegetables release water as they cook, especially softer vegetables like zucchini and mushrooms. If you put too many veggies in a pan at once, they’ll steam and turn to mush in their own liquid instead of sautéing to a golden brown.
Here’s the best way I’ve found to roast veggies:
Peel if needed, then cut all the vegetables into pieces that are basically the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate. Group the vegetables by texture and/or type, so that shorter cooking veggies are on one sheet pan and longer cooking veggies are on another. (For example, root vegetables, squash, and potatoes can be grouped together, and cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can be grouped together, and onions, zucchini and bell peppers can be grouped together.)
Coat the veggies generously with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (or your favorite spice blend). I like fresh rosemary, but I use a lot of herbs depending on my mood.
Spread the vegetables out evenly in one layer on a sheet pan, with a little room to spare. Don’t overcrowd the sheet pan. (For easier cleanup, line the sheet pan with parchment paper first.)
Roast in the oven at 425º F for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of vegetable. Veggies are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork and are lightly browned on the edges.
Mix the vegetables only once or twice while they roast. Use a rimmed baking sheet, so the veggies don’t fall off the pan when you mix them.
Simple and quick, steaming vegetables is perfect for busy weeknights. The great risk with steaming is sogginess (unfortunately how most of us think of steamed vegetables), so always set a timer. Stop steaming the veggies before they’re completely soft; they’re done when still slightly firm in the center. Most veggies take 5 to 10 minutes. Harder ones like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash steam in 10 to 20 minutes. For the best results, steam different types of vegetables separately.
A collapsible steamer basket is an inexpensive kitchen investment, and most rice cookers and Instant Pots have a steamer tray. Or, if you have one, use the microwave. Put cut-up vegetables in a bowl, add about 3 tablespoons water, and cover the bowl with a plate. Cook 2 ½ minutes, then check for doneness. Be careful of hot steam when removing the plate. Or, try this method of microwave steaming with wet paper towels.
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