Boiling vegetables is the most commonly used method at home. In the case of leafy greens, use plenty of water and don’t cover the pan. They need space and, when cooked uncovered, will keep their colour and will appear fresher. Adding a pinch of baking soda can help accentuate their green colour. The cooking juices can be used to make broth, which can serve as base for soup or a sauce. Other vegetables don’t need as much water (too much water risks diminishing their flavour). When we briefly cook vegetables in boiling water, it’s called blanching. There are three methods for this: You can boil the water and then add the vegetables; or place the vegetables in cold water and bring it to a boil; or you can briefly steam the vegetables. Blanching inactivates vegetable enzymes, which can alter their taste and structure. This technique is frequently used to preserve food, for example, before freezing or canning. We can also blanche vegetables that need to be cooked al dente, or if we want them to remain crunchy. It’s important to cool off the vegetables in cold water after they’ve been boiled, in order to stop the cooking process and ensure the vegetables are crisp, not limp. If you don’t cool them off, they can lose their colour or continue to cook. Cooling off the vegetables also helps them keep longer. Useful tip: reserve the cooking juices when you boil vegetables. The water often ends up discarded down the drain when it could serve as the base of a delicious broth. Sterilizing is another form of cooking in water, but it’s done under pressure, in a sterilised glass jar. Vacuum cooking also uses this technique.
Culinary Technique - Cooking in Water or Broth
- Clean and wash the vegetables. Chop them up if necessary.
- Bring the water to a boil and cook the vegetables al dente. For leafy greens, use a bit more water and don’t cover the pan.
- Halt the cooking process by cooling off the vegetables under cold running water.
- You can keep the cooking juices to make vegetable broth or as a base for soup or a sauce.