Blanching, or pre-cooking, vegetables keeps their color and nutrients stable. Plus, they are half-cooked, so finishing them for dinner, takes moments. There they are, in your fridge, just waiting for some hot olive oil, sliced garlic and a few red pepper flakes. They are fine specimens indeed.
You’re probably wondering what the hell “The David” has to do with blanching or perhaps I truly have gone off the deep end of the sink. He got your attention, didn’t he? You can admit it…we’re all friends here. We were in Italy this fall and we ate at the same little trattoria all 3 nights we were in Rome. This is where I experienced an epiphany. The trattoria blanched (pre-cooked) their green beans, broccoli, spinach, rapini and cauliflower. Then, when someone ordered, all they really had to do is just heat the veggie through and serve it. It was liberating, I tell you. I do this all the time now. And isn’t this just the perfect time-saver for the holiday season?
When I clean string beans, I remove the stem-end but leave the tail intact. I like the way they look; I leave them whole, but feel free to remove the tail, cut the beans in half or smaller pieces, whatever floats your veggie boat. I rinse them well and drain them well before we’ll bathe them ever so briefly in boiling water.
Broccoli works well, too. When I blanch broccoli, I always place the heads stem-end down. The stem needs to cook a bit longer than the “leafy” part of the tree. I used the same water to do both the beans and the broccoli, doing the beans first, as they have a less pungent flavor, thus they don’t affect the broccoli flavor.
For green beans, it takes about 2-4 minutes, for broccoli, a bit longer. See how the green “sets” and becomes deeper and darker.
The next step is very important. Have a bowl of ice water standing by. When the veggie in question is just slightly tender, but still has quite a bit of “bite” to it, remove the now-blanched veggies from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice water, gently stirring them and pushing them down into the water. The idea is to stop the cooking process immediately. Then, when they are cool, remove the veggies and drain them well.
Doesn’t this whole process, which takes less time to actually do than it takes you to read about it here, scream holiday meal time? But alas, I digress; now, you have options. You can prepare them immediately or save them for later.
This was the same skillet I cooked the non-bank-breaking steak in, so I just added a couple of teaspoons of the oil from the garlic confit, 1 clove of garlic very thinly sliced (because you really can’t have too much garlic, can you?) and then some red pepper flakes. It takes all of about 2-3 minutes and you’re plating the beans. This was done while the steaks rested.
You can blanch carrots, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, different greens, really almost any vegetable. So that’s it…that’s all there is to it and you have an entire weeks worth of veggies tucked away in your fridge just waiting to be finished…it’s sublime. And it’s perfect for the holidays, too.
“The David” is amazing, isn’t he? I must say, when I saw him, in all his 13.5 foot glory, he truly did take my breath away. Two other sculptors had a crack at this piece of marble (okay, pun intended). They each had started works on this piece of marble, so it was considered an inferior piece, junk really, so the powers that be thought, “Let’s give it to Mike!”. It took Michelangelo 2 years to complete The David; when he finished it, he was 26 years old. He didn’t simply carve his pieces, he felt he was “releasing” his subjects from the marble; they stepped out, so to speak. The man was a genius; just look at the detail. Okay, enough art history. You have yourself a Merry Christmas and now, a little more eye-candy, ’cause a woman doesn’t live by veggies alone.