I haven’t added a recipe in a while. This isn’t only a recipe ; it’s also a technique for the proper treatment of vegetables. The pictures come from today’s visit to the Civic Center farmers market; paradoxically, the vegetable pictures were pretty bad, so I only have fruit for this post.
How little love vegetables get from both home cooks and restaurant professionals! Almost as an afterthought, they dump some perfectly wonderful vegetables into a pot of boiling water, forget they exist, cook the flavor, color and nutrients out of them, fail to drain them properly, and then dump them on a plate to lay weakly in a pool of rapidly cooling water. Now when my grandmother in Idaho cooked vegetables, she boiled them, too, but she kept an eye on the pot, did not overcook them, and drained them completely. But she “cheated:” until 10 minutes before dinner was served, these same vegetables had grown in my paternal grandparents’ backyard garden.
I normally prefer to saute vegetables, but sometimes I need to cook them in water. But I don’t boil them; boiling only works well with the ones growing in your back yard. I prefer steaming as the best way to use water and still preserve color, shape, taste and nutrients. I will give away my secret, but be forewarned: I will call upon your courage and fortitude.
Steamed Vegetables (Serves 4-6)
- 1 pound Vegetables, such as zucchini, carrots, peas, shelled fava beans, snow peas
- 1 Lemon, zested, split in half
- 1-2 Tablespoons of Fresh Mint, finely minced
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 cup white wine (optional)
I’ll pretend we’re steaming zucchini.
- Wash the squash thoroughly and trim the ends. Split lengthwise into quarters. Cut into one-half inch chunks.
- Boil water in the pot, adding the juice of one lemon half and the optional white wine if you choose.
- Toss together the zucchini, mint and lemon zest.
- Place in the steamer basket, place the steamer basket over the pot of boiling liquid, and cover.
Time for bravery. I present my big secret after the picture of the strawberries.
Undercook the vegetables.
Yes, please have the courage to undercook your vegetables. The zucchini needs no more than 2 minutes, perhaps only one. Snow peas (which you’ll cut in half or thirds) and peas might need 3 minutes. Fava beans, maybe five if they’re big. Carrots, depending upon how thickly you cut them up, might need six or seven. Rule of thumb: If they’re still a little crunchy, they’re done. Remove your vegetables from the pot, dump them into an attractive bowl (presentation matters; love your veggies!), and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste over them. You may add a little butter or high quality olive oil (or substitute other herbs, as long as they’re fresh) if you wish.
Vonn Scott Bair