Vegetables get a horrifically bad rap in taste tests because the traditional American way of cooking them isnâ€™t much different than our British ancestors, who learned the best way to avoid disease was to boil everything into an unrecognizable state of mush. When cooked properly, vegetables have an amazing array of flavors and textures that can be quite delightful to even the pickiest of palates. Ideally, you want your vegetables cooked until just crisp-tender (al dente) so they are full of flavor, color-rich, and nutrient dense. Below are some cooking methods which achieve just that:
- Quick SautÃ©: Bring a little bit of oil and Â¼ cup water or broth to a steam and add vegetables. Cover (this prevents nutrient loss through steam and light and quickens cooking time) and â€œsautÃ©â€ for 3-7 minutes, depending on vegetable.
- Steaming: place 2â€ of water in the bottom of a pot. Place a steamer basket in the pot. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables only after the water has come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover tightly. Steam vegetables until brightly colored and crisp-tender – 2 to 7 minutes.
- Blanching: this is great for tougher greens such as chard and beet greens, as well as asparagus, which is easy to overcook. Bring a pot filled Â¾ full with water to a boil. Drop in vegetables and let boil for 1-3 minutes (that brightening of color is a sign the vegetables are done). Remove from heat, immediately draining the pot and rinsing the veggies under cold water to halt the cooking process. Some nutrients will be lost in the water with this process. It can be â€œrecycledâ€ in soup stock, or given to your plants.
Key things to remember when cooking vegetables: the shorter the cooking time, the better. Avoid microwaving, which destroys a significant percentage of antioxidants in the vegetable. Keep it crisp-tender to maximize flavor and nutrition!
Asami, D.K., et al. Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices J. Agric. Food Chem., 51 (5), 1237 -1241, 2003. 10.1021/jf020635c S0021-8561(02)00635-0