How to Easily Cook Tender Vegetables
Blanching – boiling briefly before being immersed in an ice bath – is a standard method used to cook vegetables, which tend to lose their color and texture if you expose them to heat for too long. But even a quick boil can be too strong for some of the delicate parts of the plant, and that’s when cookbook author Abra Behrens turns to artificial blanching.
In an article for Food52, Behrens describes a story of love, loss, and tricolor green beans:
I brought them home so pumped up to make a salad. I brushed each one, becoming more and more aroused as each color passed through my fingers. Then I whitewashed them and what was neon purple turned gray-green. I got pissed off which was admittedly unwise.
Not wanting to accept the dull gray beans, Behrens approached the next batch more cautiously. Instead of blanching all three colors, she boiled yellow and green and then simply poured the boiling water over purple, making them bright and crispy, but no longer soggy.
It’s ingenious to me, and perfect for those moments when you just want to smooth out the rough edge of a green (or purple) subject while keeping most of its fresh color and texture. It works with green beans, asparagus, shaved fennel, or just about any tender and / or thinly sliced vegetables (see the Food52 article below for a complete list of Behrens’ suggestions). You can use water that you have already boiled (such as grains or pasta), or you can bring a kettle or saucepan to a boil for this special purpose. If you are traveling, this is a good way to prepare some vegetables at the hotel simply by running water through the coffee maker.
Try it next time you’re making a cheese platter or salad that’s high in vegetables. If you still have a little too much crunchiness in the boiling water at one time, you can always try a second one, although Behrens says that once was always enough for her. I love the idea of artificially blanching peas, especially fresh snow peas or frozen English peas. People always digest peas.