Looking healthier lower carb alternatives to crackers, chips, and other grain and potato products? Do you want make vegetables more tender, tasty, and digestable? Do you want to eat more of them and encourage your family and friends to do the same? Then you’ll want to try my secret weapon of a recipe below and add it to your recipe repertoire.
Raw veggies, raw deal
Many people who don’t like raw broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and radishes, enjoy these vegetables when they’re parboiled. Personally, I don’t eat or serve raw broccoli or cauliflower; they contain goitrogens that can inhibit your thyroid function and your digestive enzymes and cause painful gas and bloating.
What’s in it for you?
This method makes vegetables more vibrant and eye appealing. It’s virtually guaranteed to invite people to take first and even second helpings of vegetables. I’ve watched four and five year olds, grade school children, teenagers, and picky adults take first and second helpings of vegetables prepared this way and express utter amazement at how good they taste. Take note: It’s not steaming––not even close!
What’s the secret?
I was first introduced to the Japanese technique Ohitashi, which means boiled salad in Japanese, more than 20 years ago. To many people “boiled salad,” conjures up visions of soggy boiled lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, so I prefer to use the term, “parboiled salad.” It’s almost identical to blanching.
You cut the vegetables into thin slices or bite-size pieces, then cook them briefly in lightly salted, rapidly boiling water with the lid off, then plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking and hold the colors. Then you drain the vegetables, pat them dry, and serve them with a dip or salad dressing.
Don’t for get the salt
Salt the cooking water to create osmotic pressure to minimize the migration of minerals from the vegetables into the cooking water. (Remember high school biology?)
Leave the lid off
You can leave the lid on the pot when you start it boiling, but once you start adding vegetables, leave it off! This keeps the vegetables from over cooking and allows you to watch them and take them out in a timely manner. It also keeps the temperature from getting too high in the pot and the water.
One kind at a time
To maintain the unique flavor of each vegetable, cook each kind separately, but in the same water. That way the carrots won’t taste like broccoli, and cauliflower won’t taste like onions. Remember, you’re not making soup here!
Do it in order
The order of cooking makes a difference. Start with the most mild or sweetest-tasting vegetables (carrots or onions). Finish with strong, bitter, or pungent vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, celery, cabbage, daikon radish, or mustard greens) or vegetables whose colors that might bleed into the water (red radish or purple cabbage).
Ready the ice bath
Plunging the cooked vegetables into ice water stops cooking and holds their vibrant colors. You don’t want these lovely vegetables to look like broccoli left in the steamer too long with the lid on.
Draining is just as crucial. Do it twice to remove all traces of water, otherwise your salad dressing will pool in the bottom of the bowl.
Serving blanched vegetables
You can toss blanched vegetables together in a serving bowl, artfully arrange them on a platter for a composed salad, or refrigerate them in separate jars for a salad bar effect in your fridge.You can dress an entire bowlful (I usually don’t) or just enough for a meal. I usually allow each person to dress his or her portions to taste at the table.
Plan for leftovers but don’t go overboard
Cook enough vegetables to serve 2 to 3 days in a row. Don’t make enough for the week. The longer they sit in the fridge the more nutrients they lose. However, if you don’t make leftovers you’ll miss out on more nutrients by not having veggies on hand when hunger and meal time strikes. Remove the leftovers from the fridge 30 minutes before serving if you like, to take the chill off.
Here’s what you need (equipment):
(1) A sturdy vegetable knife, a Mac or Caddie knife or a chef’s knife
(2) 4 to 6 bowls for holding the chopped vegetables
(3) A 3- or 6-quart pot with a lid
(4) A large stainless steel colander nestled inside a larger stainless steel bowl
(5) A skimmer, spider, deep fry basket, or pasta insert
(6) Ice and cool or cold water
(7 A large platter and some wide-mouth glass jars or bowls with lids for storing
See how to make this recipe:
Crudité Platter of Seasonal Vegetables
Prep: 30 minutes/ Cooking: 10 to 15 minutes total/ Yield: 12 or more servings
This recipe encourages people to take second helpings of vegetables. Parboiling reduces bitter flavors, making vegetables more eye appealing and more tender, tasty, and digestible. Try it or sit-down dinners, potlucks, pack lunches, or party trays with a couple of delicious dips, such as Spicy Peanut Sauce and Cashew-Dill or Cashew-Macadamia dill Dip.
Notes: Salting the water keeps more minerals and flavor in the vegetables. As an appetizer, figure 1/2 to 1 cup cooked vegetables per person. As a side dish, figure 1 1/2 to 2 cups per person if you don’t serve a tossed salad or cooked greens in the meal.
3 medium carrots (about 3 cups), peeled and cut into finger-like sticks for dipping
1 medium cauliflower (about 5 cups), cut into florets with enough stem to hold on to
1 pound asparagus (about 4 cups), woody bottom portion discarded where it breaks easily, remaining stems cut into 2-inch lengths or broccoli cut into bite-size florets
1 medium-size sweet red bell pepper, halved, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch wide strips
1 sweet yellow bell pepper, halved, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch wide strips
3 to 4 quarts of filtered water for cooking
1 1/2 or 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt (1/2 to 1 teaspoon per quart of H20)
Additional filtered water
8 or more cups of ice for chilling the vegetables after cooking
1. Arrange each kind of sliced vegetable in a separate bowl.
2. Salt the water and bring it to boil in a covered 4 to 6-quart pot over high heat. Set a pasta insert into the water, at least 3-inches deep, or have a large Chinese skimmer on hand. Prepare an ice bath (filtered water with plenty of ice) in a large bowl.
3. Cook each kind of vegetable separately but in the same water in this order: carrots 30 to 60 seconds; cauliflower or broccoli 2 to 3 minutes; asparagus and daikon radish 1 to 2 minutes; peppers 30 to 60 seconds. Let the water return to boil before adding vegetables; watch clock to avoid overcooking. Leave lid off during cooking.
4. Use the pasta insert or Chinese skimmer to quickly transfer cooked vegetables to the reserved ice bath to stop the cooking and set the color. Leave vegetables in the ice water until cool to the touch (about 2 minutes), drain in a colander, and then squeeze to remove excess water, or pat dry. Add more ice to the bowl as needed. While one vegetable cools, cook the next kind, and then transfer to ice water, then colander.
5. Arrange vegetables on one or more platter(s) and serve with dips, or transfer to glass jars or bowls with lids. Refrigerate and use within 3 days. Do not reheat.
Entire recipe: 565 calories, 35 g protein, 104 g carbohydrate (32 g fiber), 1 g fat, 784 mg calcium, 797 mg sodium
1 heaping cup: 47 calories, 3 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate (3 g fiber), 65 mg calcium, 65 mg sodium
Source: The Garden of Eating: A Produce Dominated Diet & Cookbook by Rachel Albert Matesz & Don Matesz (Planetary Press, Copyright 2004)
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