Boiling or Simmering Vegetables
Like sautéing, boiling vegetables is a quick and easy technique. When you want to retain the flavor and crispness of vegetables such as green beans or broccoli, wait until the water is at a full boil. Toss in the vegetables and cook them quickly, a technique called blanching. Simmering also uses water to cook vegetables, but at a lower temperature, before the water begins to boil. This slow-cooking technique is great for dried bean, potatoes, beets and other root vegetables that require longer periods of cooking in order to become tender.
Kitchen Tip: Adding salt to boiling water enhances the flavor of vegetables. Don’t overdo it. Vegetables shouldn’t taste salty. And of course excess salt increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Roasting vegetables such as asparagus, squash, or onions is as simple as putting them on a baking sheet, drizzling them with a little vegetable oil, and popping them in a 400 degree oven. “The high oven temperature of roasting cooks meat and vegetables quickly and caramelizes the sugars on the surface, creating a crunchy and sweet flavor,” says Scott Samuel, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Roasting helps to preserve not only vitamins and minerals, but also flavors that can be lost with boiling.
Kitchen Tip: Build a meal around foods that can all be roasted in the oven, such as roasted chicken or fish and roasted vegetables. Seasonings such as bay leaves, garlic, or mixed spices can be added for flavor.
Steamed vegetables are synonymous with healthy eating for good reason. Steaming cooks vegetables without submersing them in water, so they are more likely to retain vitamins and minerals. Unlike sautéing, steaming doesn’t require oil, so it’s a great way to prepare vegetables if you’re watching calories. The best vegetables for steaming include broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, leafy greens like spinach, and other relatively tender vegetables.
Kitchen Tip: Aromatic spices such as cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, and ginger can be added to the steaming liquid to permeate vegetables with subtle flavor.
When the weather is warm, grill vegetables outside on the barbecue. Like roasting, grilling locks in flavor and caramelizes the surface of vegetables, giving them a crispy sweetness. Grilling is a terrific way to prepare corn, sweet peppers, zucchini and other squash, onions, potatoes, and a variety of other vegetables.
Kitchen Tip: If you have a gas cook top, you can grill vegetables inside all year round. Hold the vegetables with tongs above the flame, turning to cook them evenly. Another option is to place vegetables on a grilling basket over the flame. Bell peppers, available most of the year, are perfect for grilling over a stove top.