Friday, August 26, 2011

Back from Vacation

*yawn* I swear I did nothing today but shop for food. I got to chat with Anne Marie at the farmer's market about the cookbook. The book is creeping towards completion. Here is the current state of the veggie section.


If you don’t like vegetables, chances are you were put off from them because as a child you were forced to eat overcooked or canned vegetables. One might as well say “I don’t like music” after having only ever listened to Rosanne Bar sing the National Anthem. If you have so tragically been put off of vegetables, I hope you will give them another chance.

If you need more fiber in your diet, don’t go for boxes of grain-based foods that are advertised as “high fiber”. Eat more vegetables. (Or fruits, or whole grains such as barley - see section #.)

For the most part, cooked vegetables are best when gently and minimally cooked so that the color of the food is intensified, the texture still crisp, and the aroma appetizing. Such minimal cooking will also preserve as much of the vegetable’s nutritional quality as possible. When vegetables are cooked too long, they become gray, squishy, lacking in nutrients, and nasty.

For recipes involving raw vegetables, see the salad section (#).

If you have a vegetable that you have never before cooked or eaten, or if you are new to cooking vegetables, start with the sautéed vegetables recipe (#).

Choosing, Cleaning, and Storing Produce

Fruits and vegetables should be firm and brightly colored. Leaves should be green (no yellow or brown spots) and stiff. A vegetable that is squishy, limp, or fading in color is going to taste poorly and won’t have many nutrients. A vegetable that has any mold on it should be thrown away.

Most fruits and vegetables keep best in the refrigerator, with some exceptions. Bananas should not be refrigerated. Nor should tomatoes, because cold temperatures cause them to lose their flavor. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onions can be kept in the refrigerator, but will also do well in a cool, dark cupboard. Winter squashes and pumpkins can be stored for months in any cool place that doesn’t freeze.

All produce should be washed or peeled before being cooked or eaten, even if it was grown organically. Root vegetables should either be peeled, or scrubbed with a scrub-brush or a clean scrubbing sponge. (Scrubbing sponges can be put through the clothes washer in hot water to clean them.) Leafy greens need to be submerged in a bowl full of water to remove grit. Pour the rinse-water out and examine the bottom of the bowl for grit; if any remains, rinse again.

After washing, leafy greens can be chopped and stored in the freezer if they are eventually going to be cooked. However, and greens that are destined to become salad should not be frozen, because the leaves will become limp when they thaw.

Sautéed Vegetables

Sautéing (or stir-frying; see ##) is possibly the best way to get to know an unfamiliar veggie. Sautéing brings out the flavor in food quickly. And, importantly, when you sauté vegetables, you can taste them as you cook.

If the vegetable that you wish to cook is a leafy green, skip to recipe #.

1 or 2 cups of almost any vegetable, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pinch of salt
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 tablespoon of oil, preferably olive

Heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Toss in the vegetables, salt, and pepper. Give them a stir every thirty seconds or so. As you cook, periodically taste what you are cooking. Note how the texture and taste change. When the texture and flavor seem to be at their best, remove the pan from the heat, and as quickly as possible, get the veggies out of that hot pan!

Many a vegetable dish has been overcooked because it has been left sitting in a hot pan. For particularly delicate vegetables, such as broccoli, you may want to get the vegetables off of the hot pan before they have reached their peak of texture and flavor, because even out of the pan, they will briefly continue to cook.

Once you have mastered sautéing a single vegetable, the next step is sautéing multiple kinds of vegetables in the same pan together. (#)

Sautéing Multiple Kinds of Vegetables in the Same Pan Together

For a more complex side dish, multiple vegetables can be cooked together in the same pan. Some vegetables take longer to cook than others, so you must approach this with a bit of a strategy. Firstly, don’t try this with an unfamiliar vegetable. (Try the sautéed vegetable recipe, #, above, to familiarize yourself with the vegetable first.)

1 or 2 cups of almost any vegetable, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces. Keep the different vegetables separate.
1 pinch of salt
A sprinkle of black pepper
1 tablespoon of oil, preferably olive

Start off by noting which of your vegetables will take longer to cook. You will add the vegetables to the pan in order from those which will take the longest to cook, to those which will take the shortest. It takes some practice to know exactly when to add in each new vegetable. Don’t be disheartened when you end up with perfect carrots and overdone broccoli - call it a learning experience, and try again next time!

You can jazz up a mixed pan of veggies even further by first adding some chopped onion to the hot oil, and then adding some chopped garlic. And to get fancier still, see the recipe for stir-fried anything (#)!

The following is a short list of common vegetables listed from long cooking times to short:

Bean sprout
Peas (frozen)

Once you are comfortable sautéing multiple vegetables in the same pan, you can proceed to the recipe Stir-Fried Anything! (#) to make a quick main dish in one pan.

Stir-Fried Anything!

Once you have mastered the previous recipe, sautéing multiple kinds of vegetables in the same pan together (#), you can add meats, beans, and/or sauces to the recipe to make a complete stir-fried entrée.

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