22 Jan It’s Easy Being Green
It’s Easy Being Green
My dad grew up loathing green vegetables. His mother cooked them to death, either heating canned greens or turning fresh vibrant broccoli, green beans, and asparagus to mush through excessive boiling. It took years of deprogramming by my mom and a budding love of cooking to discover that it wasn’t the veggies that were the problem, but the old school cooking methods my grandmother brought to the table from her upbringing in England and the busy life of raising three boys in the 1950/60s. What he finally found was that it is so sublimely easy to make green vegetables retain their bright color, crisp texture, and incredible natural flavor that even the most novice of home cooks can produce a killer side of greens that will leave veggie haters asking for seconds. The secret weapon: Blanching.
The truth is, my grandma was on the correct path- boiling IS the way to go, just not for the sheer length of time she was used to. Half of the blanching process is, in fact, boiling- but boiling for a VERY short amount of time. In brief, your vegetables take a fast bath in some salty boiling water and then get shocked into submission in some VERY cold ice water (the ice stops the cooking process and locks in all the vegetable goodness). There are a couple methods of blanching (and a few more reasons to and foods you can blanch) but we’ll just keep it simple: Follow these 6 easy steps and you (and the people you luv) will easily chow down your suggested daily servings (and more!) of veggies.
Cooking for Luv Blanching 101
1 Fill your largest pot 3/4 full of water and bring it to a rapid boil (big bubbles) over high heat. Add enough salt so the water tastes “Salty Like the Sea” (I’m sure most of you have accidentally swallowed some ocean water, channel that taste)
2 While the water comes to a boil, fill your largest bowl about 3/4 full with ice (I like crushed, but cubed is fine), then add enough cold water to cover the ice (I like to salt my blanching water as well)
3 Add your washed/trimmed vegetables to the boiling water (slowly so you don’t bring down the temperature of the water and lose your boil)
4 Boil the vegetables only until they’re barely cooked but tender and the color has intensified*
5 Remove them as fast as you can (using a mesh strainer, skimmer, or slotted spoon works best) and plunge them in the ice bath
6 Remove them from the ice bath as soon as they are no longer warm (don’t leave them in any longer as they’ll start to get waterlogged) and pat dry
Blanched veggies will last up to 3 days in the fridge and are great as-is in salads, veggie platters, or any other chilled dish. But to really wow your dinner guest, you can turn up the heat and build upon the foundation you created by sautéeing, grilling, or my go-to for 90% of my vegetable dishes: Roasting**. With a high heat oven, some olive oil, salt, and aromatics, you’ll create bright greens that will convert any veggie hater into a veggie luver!
*Blanching time depends on the size of the pieces and type of vegetable. A general guide (to the green vegetables I usually blanch) is:
Green Beans: 3 Minutes
Broccoli: 3 Minutes
Asparagus: 1 Minute for thin stalked variety, 2 Minutes for thicker stalks
Snow Peas: 1 Minute
Snap Peas: 2 Minutes
Leafy greens (collards, kale, swiss chard): 2 Minutes (we blanch these more to leech out bitterness than to lock in color)
**Want to make an easy roasted broccoli? Just blanch away and then follow this simple yet totally amazing recipe (I like to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end)