The Secret to Colorful, Tender Vegetables
Blanching and shocking: an easy way to upgrade your raw veggies and dip.
Pro chefs have one simple trick to coax raw veggies into a more tender, colorful state: a one-two punch of blanching and shocking. Yep, transforming vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, and bell peppers into snack-time favorites is just a matter of boiling them for a short amount of time, then shocking them in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process. Presto! You’ve got amazing veggies full of color and snap. And if you can boil water, you’re halfway there.
How to do it
Blanching means cooking vegetables until they’re no longer totally raw, but not so long that they’re soft. Get them into that just-right Goldilocks zone, and they’re perfect for salads or straight-up snacking. To do it at home, fill a large pot with water and a big pinch of salt. While that’s coming to a boil, prep your veggies—snap the ends off beans, pull broccoli apart into florets, peel carrots, etc. Prepare a bowl of ice water (cold water with a few handfuls of ice cubes) and set it aside. Once the water is boiling, carefully add your vegetables, then set a timer for the ideal cooking time (see below). Don’t be tempted to add several varieties of vegetables at once or you’ll end up with uneven cooking. It’s normal for the boiling to calm down when you add the vegetables, but if it doesn’t come back to a boil within a minute, try adding smaller batches of veggies at a time.
When the vegetables are brightly colored and tender, transfer them to the ice water with a slotted spoon, tongs, or a “spider”—an awesomely named kitchen tool that’s basically a shallow strainer on a stick. Then move on to the next vegetable, repeating the whole process until you’ve got a rainbow of snackable goodies.
What vegetables should I use?
Green beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, snap peas, fennel, kohlrabi, and summer squash all react well to a quick dip in boiling water. You can also blanch hearty greens like bok choy, kale, and collard greens to make them tender for salads or bowls. Blanching tomatoes makes them super easy to peel for smoother sauces—just cut a shallow “x” on one end and blanch for about 30-60 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath.
How long to blanch
Tenderness is somewhat subjective when it comes to blanching—there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long you should boil your asparagus versus your carrots. Like so many other things in the kitchen, it might take some trial and error to find out how long you and your little sous like your veggies blanched. To figure out your personal preferences, try blanching a few pieces of a vegetable (like three or four green beans) before you throw the whole batch into boiling water. Remove one after 30 seconds or so, toss it in ice water, and give it a try. Still too crunchy? Give the other testers another minute. Most veggies will take between two and five minutes. Trying vegetables at different stages of cooking is a great way to show kids that cooking has the power to change one vegetable into very different tastes. If your kiddo isn’t a big fan of mushy, well-cooked cauliflower, perhaps the crunchy snap of blanched florets will appeal to her.
Once you’ve got a tray of gorgeously colorful vegetables ready, it’s time to start dipping! We always keep jars of dairy-free ranch dressing and our favorite hummus in the fridge alongside a container of blanched veggies for easy, healthful snacking throughout the day.
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