April 4, 2010


Cooking Vegetables

When I was growing up, vegetables were always boiled.  They weren’t necessarily completely covered with water, but there was a significant amount.  I rarely cook vegetables that way, because my understanding is that many of the nutrients are lost to the water.   Of course, when you eat that water, such as when vegetables are part of soup, those nutrients are not wasted.  Try to incorporate water from boiling or steaming vegetables into your meal.  If not, animals can enjoy the benefits of it.  I often put it on my dogs’ food.

Whatever method you use, it is important to not overcook vegetables so they retain as many of their nutrients as possible, and so you’re not grossed out by mushy veggies. Here are some additional ways to cook vegetables.

51yetlnHsZL._SL500_AA300_[1]  1.  Steaming. To do this you need a steaming basket.  It looks something like this, and sits inside a pot.  Put water in the bottom of your pot to create steam.  The basket has feet on the bottom which raises the vegetables out of the water, but the holes in the basket allow the steam to come through.

Steaming is quick and easy and it works for fresh and frozen vegetables.  The advantage of steaming is that it cooks quickly compared to dry heat, but uses little water.  Some nutrients end up in the water, but not as much as if you boil them. 

I think our favorite vegetable is steamed broccoli served with a little butter and salt.  In fact, when we go to Outback Steakhouse, one of my kids always asks for broccoli rather than  fries.

Wok2.  Stir-Frying.  This method uses high heat so you want to cut your vegetables in bite size pieces.  That allows them to cook through without burning.  Usually, a little oil is added to a hot skillet or wok.  Then the vegetables are added and stirred constantly to keep them from sitting in one place and burning.  Vegetables are usually cooked until they are tender but crisp.  That is my favorite doneness for most vegetables.

3.  Roasting.  With this method vegetables are usually covered with a little oil and seasoning and roasted in an oven.  Place them in a baking pan and bake at 350 degrees until tender.  They can also be pan roasted on the stove using a heavy skillet.Grilling

4.  Grilling. This is a delicious, but tricky way to cook vegetables.  They can be placed directly on the grill rack, but many times they will fall through.  A special rack, foil, or skewers can all be useful.  Try marinating vegetables before grilling them.

This is the last post in a series on vegetables.  Previous posts include:

Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables
What is a Vegetable?
Cooked Versus Raw Vegetables

What is your favorite way to cook vegetables?


It depends on what vegetable I'm cooking as to my preferred method. Broccoli, asparagus, or green beans are best steamed - I only salt the broccoli and green beans, but I might add lemon zest to the asparagus. As for carrots, I love simmering them in just enough water to keep them from burning in a saucepan (like a 1/2 inch of water), lid closed, with a bit of fresh thyme, and then tossing in some honey and lemon zest at the end. I love stir-fried bell peppers, onions, sugar snap peas, and julienned carrots. I saute spinach and other greens - they taste best with just a bit of olive oil.
Our family does all of the above, except grilling. I'd say our favorite is steaming, with stirfry as a close second. :D
We prefer roast pretty much everything if we have time. I love roasted broccoli, asparagus, and green beans. Most people don't really think to do it, but it is SO tasty.

If I forget to start the veggies, then we usually just steam. I don't find that it is as flavorful as roasting, though.
I love all of these methods, except grilling! Not handy with the BBQ.

A year ago I read Simple Food by Alice Waters and one of the sections was on roasting. If I remember correctly, she said never to roast at less than 425, lest the veggies retain too much water and be a little soggy. So I turned up the heat, and yum! Sometimes I still roast at lower temps (like some asparagus we had last night that I wanted sot be softer), but I realized the higher temp is a must for less firm foods like squash.

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