Tips for Cooking Vegetables

We say we love them - but we don't always know how to cook vegetables. Here are some ideas.

By FamilyTime

 Technology has been wonderful for vegetables – frozen and canned produce are good choices for many meals. Still, nothing beats perfectly cooked fresh vegetables.

While summer and early fall may be peak season for vegetables in many regions, they are sold fresh in supermarkets all year long, regardless of where you live.

Steaming is one of the best ways to cook vegetables.

This is not the same as boiling, which too often leaves vegetables soggy and tasteless. Also, when vegetables are boiled, valuable vitamins and minerals leach into the water – which is poured down the drain.

Steaming results in crisp, flavorful vegetables full of nutrients.

Steamers are large pots fitted with perforated baskets and tight-fitting lids. You can fashion your own by putting an inexpensive, collapsible steaming basket in nearly any size pan. Lacking either, use a metal strainer or small colander set in a pot.

Put a few inches of water or broth in the pot, let it come to a boil, and then add the vegetables. The water should not touch the bottom of the steaming basket.

Asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, beans, peas and carrots steam in a matter of minutes; others, such as artichokes and beets take 30 to 40 minutes. All are crisply tender, full of flavor, and smell fresh and sweet.

Roasting and Braising
Root vegetables in particular benefit from roasting and braising, although others, such as cabbage, aspargus, and squash, do beautifully, too. The slow cooking allows natural sugars in the vegetables to caramelize and heighten their flavor.

Try roasting beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, fennel, peppers, leeks and onions (to name a few). They can be roasted early in the day and served at room temperature – or refrigerated and added to sandwiches and salads.

Before roasting, rub the vegetables with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Depending on the vegetable, roast them in a 300 to 400 degree oven until just tender when pierced with a knife. This can take about 10 minutes (asparagus) or more than an hour (winter squash).

Braising is a method of slow cooking food in a small amount of liquid, usually water or broth. Vegetables cooked in a stew are braised. Sometimes these are soggy and bland. Try braising in flavorful broth spiked with herbs and wine or beer. Don’t overcook.

Both methods result in richly flavored vegetables and while they require more time than steaming or boiling, they require little tending.