Sometimes it seems like a lot of work to sneak in those 5 servings of vegetables per day. When I’m trying to throw together a quick weeknight supper, I often don’t want to spend time making side dishes. And I’m not going to eat fresh vegetables for lunch or a snack unless they’re convenient too — I just don’t have the time.
It pays to take a little extra time when I have it, especially when I’m weekend cooking, to prep vegetables so that they’re ready to go during the week. I can quickly turn prepped vegetables into a salad or side dish or add them to a pasta sauce or soup without too much trouble.
Whenever I have the extra time, I always wash, trim, peel (if necessary) and cut up more vegetables than I need for the recipe I’m preparing. Prepped vegetables keep well in the refrigerator wrapped in damp paper towels and stored in a plastic bag. Peeled potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots can be stored in water, as can pre-snapped green beans. For longer term storage, many vegetables can be blanched briefly and then frozen; just remember to adjust the final cooking time accordingly.
To blanch vegetables, bring several quarts of water to a boil over high heat and season liberally with salt. Boil the vegetable until the color brightens and the vegetable is crisp-tender. This doesn’t take very long — no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute for tender vegetables, up to 5-6 minutes for sturdier vegetables. Save time by blanching several vegetables in the same pot — just cook them one at a time.
All of the following vegetables benefit from blanching:
- artichoke hearts
- bean sprouts
- broccoli florets and trimmed stems
- cabbage leaves
- cauliflower florets
- fava beans
- green beans
- new potatoes
- snow and sugar snap peas
Remove the blanched vegetables from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and plunge them immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Let cool for 1 minute, then pat dry with paper towels. They can then be refrigerated or frozen for later use. Blanched vegetables also make great crudites for dipping.
Even if you will be eating cooked vegetables the same day, it is better to let them cool and then revitalize them just before serving than to try to keep them warm and risk overcooking them. The French method of revitalizing blanched, frozen and leftover vegetables is my favorite.
If the vegetables are left over from a previous meal, first rinse them of any flavorings. Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil or butter over medium per serving. Add the vegetables and stir until warmed through. Season and serve.