As the farmer's markets begin to open this spring, and our vegetable gardens begin to produce through the summer, it becomes important to know how to cook fresh vegetables the correct way. There is almost nothing worse than seeing a limp, avocado-green broccoli floret with its vitamins thrown down the drain with the leftover boiling water.
When cooked properly, steamed vegetables are wonderful on their own or tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Even my 2-year-old thinks so!
The following vegetable cooking directions are from my all-time favorite, go-to cookbook, The Best Recipe.
For all steamed recipes, fit a steamer basket onto a saucepan and fill with water to below the steamer basket bottom. Heat the water to boiling, then add the vegetables and cover.
Steamed: Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Add to basket, cover, and steam for 3-4 minutes (until asparagus spears bend slightly and the tough ends give when squeezed). My addition: Immediately immerse asparagus in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Variation: Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette
Steamed: Add to basket, cover and steam until just tender, 4.5-5 minutes.
Steamed: Add to basket, cover and steam until tender but still offers resistance to the tooth when sampled, 7-8 minutes.
Boiled: Bring 4 quarts of water (and 4 tsp. sugar, if using), to boil. Add corn; return to boil and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.
Suggested eating from a Hoosier: Stick corn holders in each end, slather the ear in butter and dig in!
Boiled: Bring 2.5 quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan. Add beans and 1 tsp. salt and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Blanched Sugar Snap Peas or Snow Peas
Bring 6 cups of water to boil. Add 1 tsp. salt and 4 cups (about 1 lb.) of peas, tips snapped off and strings pulled if necessary. Cook until crisp-tender, 1.5-2 minutes for sugar snap peas or about 2.5 minutes for snow peas. Drain peas, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.
If you have a baby who's ready for soft solids, you can puree any of these steamed or boiled vegetables with a little breast milk or formula to create your own baby food. Pour prepared baby food into ice cube trays, freeze, and then store in zip-lock bags for easy and nutritious baby food!