Tender and crispy vegetables not only taste better, but also have greater nutritional value. While your chances of achieving a crisp, tender state are better with certain cooking methods, any method will do as long as you refrain from overcooking. Tender means your vegetables soft enough to pick up easily with a fork, and crispy means that not only do your vegetables not flop, but also when you bite into the vegetable you feel it crunch.
Cook vegetables as soon as you can after picking or purchasing them. The fresher the vegetable, the higher its moisture content and the less liquid you need for cooking. Soak vegetables that sit for more than two or three days in ice water for 15 to 20 minutes to add moisture and reduce cooking time.
Chop vegetables into pieces small enough to cook quickly. Slice or dice vegetables into pieces no larger than ½ inch whenever possible and when you must chop, keep vegetable pieces no larger than about 1 inch.
Add as little liquid as possible. Less is more when it comes to cooking vegetables, especially vegetables that contain vitamin C and B complex vitamins. Steam or use your microwave oven whenever you can for cooking vegetables, adding 1 inch of water or less to your steamer or no more than 2 to 3 tbsp. of water to a microwave safe dish when using your microwave oven. Cover the vegetables when steaming, using a sheet of plastic wrap to cover vegetables in your microwave.
Watch your vegetables as they cook for the first sign of a change in color. Then, remove one or two pieces with a fork and taste test immediately. Remove the vegetables from heat even if they feel slightly underdone. Cooking will continue until the vegetables completely cool, so removing vegetables from cooking liquid before they cook all the way through can help you avoid serving soggy vegetables.
Parboil or blanch vegetables in a stockpot for two to three minutes just as you do before freezing. Stop the cooking process by submerging the partially cooked vegetables in ice water. After the vegetables cool, drain the excess water and just before serving, saute or stir fry on your stove top in 1 tsp. olive oil just long enough to heat through.
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