Handling vegetables is easy when you know how to.
There are time tested procedures and some new tricks.
How to handle vegetables
Handling vegetables and fruits involves lots of cutting and chopping, so get a large chopping board. You will work much faster when there is no need to worry about damaging the surface and you have plenty of room to chop.
Boiling vegetables causes more vitamins and nutrients to be lost. Steam them instead.
Russet potatoes make great baked potatoes. They’re starchy and their skins taste great when baked.
Remove the husks and soak corn on the cob for about 1 hour before grilling. It will retain its moisture.
Soaking potatoes in water for 15 minutes before baking will result in a crispier skin.
If cutting onions makes your eyes water, try soaking the onions in water for about 15 minutes.
Using stewed tomatoes and need them sliced up? Open the can and take a sharp knife and swipe the knife across several times.
Pre-making a green salad? You can cut the tomatoes ahead of time, but store them separately to prevent the salad from going soggy and reducing its freshness.
Take care to cut vegetables into even pieces so they’ll cook evenly.
To steam vegetables, place a colander or steamer on top of a pot filled with water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch your colander or steamer. Bring water to boil and add vegetables and top with a lid. Steam to desired doneness.
To sauté vegetables means to cook to them in a pan with a small amount of oil on relatively high heat. If you’re cooking very dense vegetables like Brussels sprouts or carrots, you may want to steam them lightly first or they may not be as tender as you’d like.
When microwaving vegetables, add a little water to your microwave safe bowl. You can also steam vegetables in a microwave with a microwave steamer or if you don’t have one, a microwave safe bowl topped with a microwave safe colander and lid.
Vegetables don’t really need butter. Use herbs, spices and a squeeze of lemon juice for a more healthy approach.
Tip for roasting vegetables: Cut in large chunks as smaller pieces will tend to burn and lose the great texture roasting can provide.
Have you ever replaced mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower? It’s delicious and has fewer carbohydrates and plenty of nutritional benefits.
Fresh spinach is a bit labor intensive to wash, but tastes great. To make the process as easy as possible, submerge the leaves in water for a few seconds instead of trying to clean them with running tap water.
Did you know that mushrooms shouldn’t be soaked in water? You can use a little bit of water and immediately brush off any loose dirt, but never soak them.
Fresh vegetables taste better, but having a stock of frozen vegetables ensures you’ve got a steady supply and never run out.
Onions have plenty of fiber, vitamin C and may help prevent the growth of tumors. Plus, they’re a great kitchen staple, so stock up. Use them with sauté or roasted vegetables or meats, in soups and more.
If you’re using yellow or red potatoes to make mash, there’s no need to peel them first. The skins are flavorful, have a nice texture and have plenty of fiber.
Peel and cut your vegetables ahead of time, so you can focus on cooking.
How to prepare and cook
Asparagus: Trim the ends and wash the spears gently in cold water. Steam, grill, stir fry, boil or bake. The tips cook faster, so keep them out of the direct heat when boiling or steaming - best if kept standing. Delicious served with Hollandaise sauce or just lemon and olive oil. Try other herbs to try with asparagus are basil, chervil, fines herbes, savory or tarragon.
- Steaming is the best way to cook baby leaf spinach, steam them for 5-6 minutes.
- To boil, place them in a pan with a little water, cover and cook for 4 minutes or until tender.
- To microwave, place in a bowl suitable for the microwave - non metalic- and cover tightly - no need to add water- microwave on high for 4 minutes -800w- or 5 minutes -650w.
- Place in a steamer basket, cover and steam for 8-10 minutes or until tender.
- For crunchy carrots, place the slices into a pan of boiling water, cover and cook for 6-7 minutes -or cooke them until they are tender.
Celeriac or celery root: celeriac is a versatile root vegetable with a mild taste of celery. Peel, then dice, cut into strips or grate. Once prepared, boil it, steam it, bake it, or use celery root raw in salads - it can be boiled for 15 minutes, steamed for 20 minutes or braised for 20 minutes and it comes out nice in a stir fry. If not cooked straight away, drop the pieces in cold water with a little lemon juice to stop browning. The dark flecks on the flesh are normal. Try celery root boiled and mashed, either on its own or with rutabaga or potatoes, with a little butter and plenty of black pepper.
Enoki mushrooms: cut the base of the cluster and throw it away, separate the mushrooms keeping the stalks - careful, these stalks are delicate and break apart easily. Use enoki mushrooms in stir-fries, soups and salads. Try this: saute 2-3 chopped shallots - or 1 small onion - in 3-4 Tbs olive oil - or 3-4 Tbs butter - over a low heat for 4-5 minutes, until it starts taking color. Add mushrooms -turn the heat to medium- and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to wilt. Add 1/2 cup light cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper, and serve.
Garden peas: Store in the fridge. Shell and then steam, boil, or microwave. Delicious served with tarragon or mint. Serve also warm with ham or crispy bacon, or cold, in salads. Other herbs and spices to try with peas are allspice, basil, cardamom, chervil, ground coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, parsley, rosemary or savory.
Okra: Wash, trim the stems and cook whole. Add to an stir-fry, a stew or casserole.
- Steam - place the strips in a steaming basket over a pan of simmering water, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Stir-fry - heat 1Tbs oil in a wok, add pak choy strips and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes.
Steamed or stir-fried, pak choy is delicious with ginger and oyster sauce or light soy sauce.
Red cabbage : Braised red cabbage with apples is a perfect side dish for pork and game because, contrary to the green varieties, red cabbage benefits from longer cooking times and cooking red cabbage with an acidic fruit, or vinegar, helps to keep the red color.