Beginner’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Vegetables

How to Prepare Your Vegetables:

Vegetables can be soaked in the following solutions:

  • a solution of vinegar and water (one part vinegar to twelve parts water – rinse after soaking in cold water to remove the vinegar odor)
  • The juice of half a lemon and 1 teaspoon of sea salt to a small basin of water. These provide a mildly acidic solution that may remove a greater percentage of bacteria and contaminants than just water alone.

Washing in bleach or detergent is not recommended because vegetable skins are porous and improper rinsing may lead to illness.
Do not soak delicate leafy greens for long periods of time (> 2 min) as vitamins can begin to leach out into the water. Hardier produce such as melons and squashes will welcome a good scrubbing to remove superficial contaminants.

Cooking Your Vegetables:

For cooking, the key is to cook as little as possible. Al dente vegetables retain greater nutrients than veggies which have been boiled, roasted or fried to death. Cut vegetables into small, uniform chunks to minimize the amount of time the vegetable is exposed to heat. This will allow for even cooking and minimal nutrient loss.

  • Vegetables get a horrifically bad rap in taste tests because the traditional American way of cooking them isn’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 Sauté: Bring a little bit of oil and ¼ cup water or broth to a steam and add vegetables. Cover (this prevents nutrient loss through steam and light and quickens cooking time) and sauté for 3-7 minutes, depending on vegetable.

Steaming: place 2 cups 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 ¾ 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 reused in soup stock, or given to your plants for a little nutrient boost!

 

A general rule when cooking vegetables: the shorter the cooking time, the better. Aim to keep it crisp-tender to maximize flavor and nutrition!

Naturally, there are always exceptions! Cooking vegetables in soup will make them softer and vitamins will leach out into the broth, but so long as you drink your broth, you will gain the benefits!

A Cool Summer Broccoli Slaw

1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced shallots (green onions or leeks will work as well)
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 bag (10 ounces) broccoli slaw (available in the produce section near the bagged salads)

 

In a bowl, combine the orange juice, vinegar and shallots. Add a good pinch of salt. Let this stand 5 to 20 minutes, the longer it sits the better the flavors marry. Whisk in the sesame oil, ginger and mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings. Wash the broccoli slaw, then add it to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Recipe Courtesy of the Portsmouth Herald

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