Tuesday, December 7, 2010

BLANCHING FOR COMPLIMENTS

I don't know about you, but when I get compliments on my vegetables I take notice. After Thanksgiving I got an email from the hostess specifically about how much her husband liked my green beans. Yesterday my own husband enthused about my brussels sprouts. What's my secret? Blanching.

Blanching is a useful way to break down tough veggies like green beans, asparagus, brussels sprouts, and broccoli (and to turn them a beautiful green) so you can quickly sauté them later. (Mollie Katzen in one of her cooking videos suggests blanching all your veggies right when you bring them home from the store.)

How I blanch: Before I do anything, I put a large bowl of water in the freezer and add a few ice cubes because you need to submerge the blanched veggies in ICE COLD water if you want them to stay bright green.   

Note:  Really cold tap water does not equal ice water.

Fill a big pot with slightly salted water and bring to a rapid boil. Put your veggies in and as soon as they turn bright green and are just tender to the bite (this can take a couple of minutes for broccoli florets or as much as 9 minutes for fat green beans -- watch the color turn and sample, sample, sample!) take them out with a slotted spoon or tongs and plunge them into the ice water bath. As soon as they're cool, dry them.  Then refrigerate.    

Note: Don't put blanched moist veggies in a sealed containter in the fridge or you'll end up with stinky, gross tasting veggies. THEY HAVE TO BE DRY.   I dry them by rolling them up in a kitchen towel.  (I have a couple rolled up towels in my fridge right now.)  

Note: I also dry lettuce by rolling it up in a towel (salad spinners are too expensive here in Morelia). I learned the rolling technique from an Alice Waters video.  

To Thanksgiving I brought: blanched green beans which had been snapped into thirds before boiling, a raw yellow bell pepper also cut in bite-sized lengths, and a baggy with minced garlic and ginger in it.  Minutes before dinner, after the turkey was out of the oven, I stepped to the stove, heated some oil in a big pan, threw in the bell pepper and sautéed it until it started to soften -- a couple of minutes.  Then I threw in the garlic, ginger, and green beans and sautéed them for about two minutes or until the smell of garlic and ginger was in the air and the beans were heated through.  At some point I added a little salt.  Ta-daa!  They were on the table in no time and I didn't get in anyone's way. 

For the brussels sprouts:  I sautéed an onion in butter.  When the onion was translucent I added a little more butter and my blanched and halved brussels sprouts.  I sautéed them till the flat sides turned just a little brown.  My husband ate half a dinner plate full and asked for more.




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