The Best Way to Cook Vegetables
Most vegetables can be enjoyed raw in a salad or as part of a crudité platter, but many vegetables are more tender and flavorful when cooked. While you could throw basically any vegetable into a pot of water and cook until soft enough to eat, you risk losing out on many nutrients, which leach into the water, and you end up with mushy, water logged vegetables. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?! There are a variety of cooking techniques you can use to make your vegetables shine as a side dish or added to a mixed salad.
Roasting: By far my favorite technique, roasting brings out the sweetness of any vegetable due to the caramelization that happens during the cooking process. Toss any vegetable with a little olive oil and seasoning of choice and cook in a 400 degree oven until vegetables are tender on the inside and crunchy and caramelized on the outside. Cook time will vary depending on your vegetable, for example asparagus needs less cook time than root vegetables like parsnips and sweet potatoes.
Grilling: Like roasting, the high heat of a grill caramelizes vegetables, but what the grill adds is a deep, smoky flavor your oven won’t provide. As with roasted vegetables, toss with olive oil and seasonings and lay directly on grill grates, or for more delicate vegetables, place in a grill basket or on a piece of aluminum foil over the grates. Try grilled leeks, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Sautéing: A great way to cook greens and other delicate vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, and onions, sautéing requires little time, although it is all hands-on. Place a small amount of oil in a sauté pan or skillet, heat over medium-high, and when oil is hot add evenly cut vegetables to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender.
Steaming: One of the quickest and easiest ways to cook vegetables, steaming is great for delicate vegetables and ones you want to preserve the color of, such as broccoli and asparagus. Plus, there are no added calories from the steaming process! Once steamed, add a bit of flavor with a pinch of salt or herbs of choice and a squeeze of lemon juice to maintain the virtues of steaming.
Blanching: Another one of my favorite methods, blanching, which literally means “to whiten,” is a technique used to soften food, brighten it, or remove a strong taste from the food. Blanching is especially good for vegetables added to a crudite platter like broccoli or snow peas, which can look dull and are fibrous when raw. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil, add vegetables for 30 seconds to a minute, and transfer to a bowl of ice water to “shock” the vegetables and stop the cooking process. Drain, dry, and serve!
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By Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN for Fresh Express