Shocking! A tip for vivid veggies
We’ve all had cafeteria-style green beans at one point or another. You know, those no-green-in-sight, mushy, gray-brown ones?
Those are definitely not pretty.
Whether they are going into a crudite platter, a salad, or directly onto your plate, keep your vegetables vibrantly colorful by blanching and shocking them. The few minutes it takes will improve the look, taste, and texture immensely.
It's so worth it.
“Blanching” means to cook in boiling water just until your desired doneness, and “shocking” is stopping the cooking process quickly by plunging into ice cold water. The blanched and shocked vegetables can then be used in salads or other cold dishes, or frozen for future use without losing their beautiful color. For use in hot dishes, quickly saute or stir fry to reheat just before serving. If using in soups or stews, add them in the last few minutes of cooking and they’ll stay colorful and delicious.
Besides locking in those vivid colors, blanching and shocking also:
- “pre-cooks” veggies so they can be quickly heated and served later
- destroys bacteria and enzymes which prevents discoloration during freezing, slows down spoilage and prevents oxidation (like a potato that browns when exposed to the air)
- reduces bitter flavors in things like broccoli rabe and brussels sprouts
- helps prevent mushiness
- loosens skins for easy peeling on things like tomatoes
Different vegetables need to be handled differently to get the best results. For all of them, use plenty of water. If needed, blanch in batches to avoid overcrowding.
- Use salted boiling water
- Never add acid (i.e., vinegar, lemon juice) to the water – it will make veggies brown
- Never add baking soda – it will make veggies bland, mushy and soapy-tasting
- Cook with pot uncovered
- Artichoke hearts – 7 minutes.
- Asparagus (snap off tough ends first) – 2-4 minutes (for small, med, large)
- Beans (i.e., Lima) (with shells) – 2-4 minutes (for small, med, large)
- Broccoli (chopped or stalks) – 3 minutes
- Brussels sprouts (remove outer leaves) – 3-5 minutes (for small, med, large)
- Green beans – 2 1/2 minutes
- Green cabbage – 1 1/2 minutes
- Greens (spinach, kale, etc.) – 2 – 2 1/2 minutes
- Peas (shelled) – 1 1/2 minutes
- Snow or Sugar Snap Peas – 2-3 minutes
Red, Purple & White Veggies
- Add acid to the water – vinegar, lemon juice, etc. (1-2 Tbsp per liter of water)
- Cook different colors in separate pots to avoid color mixing (i.e., red & yellow beets)
- Cook with pot covered
- Cauliflower (chopped or stalks) – 3 minutes
- Parsnips – 2 minutes
- Red or yellow beets – until tender
- Red cabbage – 1 1/2 minutes
- Red or white onions (sliced) – 10-15 seconds
Orange & Yellow Veggies
- May use acid or not
- If using an acid, add it halfway through to prevent toughness
- May cook covered or uncovered
- Carrots (sliced) – 3 minutes
- Carrots (baby) – 5 minutes
- Sweet potatoes – until tender
- Summer Squash, chunks or sliced (zucchini, etc.) – 3 minutes, grated – 1-2 minutes
Mushrooms, onions and tomatoes do not require blanching, even when freezing. To remove a tomato skin, you can lightly score the base and blanch for 30-90 seconds.
Shocking time is usually about the same as blanching time, but you can speed it along a little by separating and swishing the veggies around in the ice water. The point is to get them quickly cooled down so they are no longer cooking. Once cool, remove them from the water and pat dry.
Here’s a great tip from YumSugar.com – instead of wasting water and ice, and using up another bowl, shock your veggies in the freezer instead.