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Switching to Fresh vegetables?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I know this sounds odd, but I am confused on what has to be done for some veggies to be considered cooked.  Coming from the stand point of always using frozen veggies, tossing them in a saute pan, and cooking them at a medium to high temperature, I am sort of lost.  Is there a good source on how various items should be prepared?


 

I am a beginner in the world of cooking.  If you have any tips, feel free to send them my way.  Advice is always appreciated.

 
 
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I am a beginner in the world of cooking.  If you have any tips, feel free to send them my way.  Advice is always appreciated.

 
 
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post #2 of 23

As long as you like them, you're good. Doneness doesn't vary much between frozen and fresh as much as you might think except that most frozen vegetables get a quick blanching before freezing. And there is a texture shift in some vegies. Frozen carrots never have the right texture when cooked.

 

Joy of Cooking will have the basic info. The modern standard is generally "crisp-tender". However there is something to be said for cooking carrots till they're soft and sweet too. Or search here for Siduri's cauliflower cooked until if falls apart. Generally considered overcooked at that point, there are ways of making it work as Siduri shows.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 23

I believe you pretty much have to learn how to cook each vegetable one by one. I mean soon you'll see families of vegetables which can go together and be cooked the same way... but at first you learn one at a time. 

 

So let's say you buy beets, just look them up in google and you'll find several methods (top of my head, simmer in water until tender, steam until tender, bake until tender, or wrap in aluminum foil and bake until tender). Just pick one and go with it. If you can't decide which to pick, just pick the easiest one, your results will be SOOO much better than if you bought cooked beets sous-vide. 

 

And phatch is correct, cooking vegetables is also about taste. Some like them al dente, some like them fully cooked through, etc... 

 

I've often shared my opinion that green beans blanched for 15mn develop a flavor that you can't get from a green bean that was cooked for a shorter amount of time. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate a raw green bean, an almost raw green bean, an al dente green bean, or an 8mn blanched green bean. But they are different. If you find a copy of the "Silver Spoon" Italian cookbook, you'll see that all the green bean recipes recommend blanching them for 15mn. I'm sure most Americans would find this to be way too long. 

 

As you start experimenting with different methods and different cooking times, you'll quickly develop a taste for what you (and your family or guests) like better. Enjoy!

 

 

post #4 of 23

I'm a fan of some frozen veg., as in peas.  Unless you grow them yourself they are best used from frozen.  The sweetness leaves them very fast if you are trying to buy them fresh.  I just nuke them for a few mins with a splash of water till just done.

 

Corn too.  Much of the year it's out of season so the frozen stuff is good, either on or off the cob.  The frozen stir fry mixes available can be ok, but I prefer to prep these myself from fresh.

 

As French Fries says, just look online and you'll find what you want, then with practice, you'll find what suits you.

 

Tinned veg are ok for backup in an emergency, but generally have what to me is an off-putting taste.  But I do make huge use of tinned tomatoes, they don't seem to suffer too much from the tinning process and are great when the fresh ones are out of season and taste like .... yeccch.

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #5 of 23

Well, you might want to think of steak or pasta. Veggies should be al dente. A little tooth resistance, but not overly hard nor mushy. When cooking them be mindful of the size of your cut. Smaller pieces obviously cook quicker. Also, unless you use an icebath to arrest cooking, don't cook veggies till they are al dente, because the remaining heat internally will continue to soften it so by the time it reaches your table it'll be mushy. As one wise man said, "The secret of cooking is knowing when to stop cooking."

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by DC Sunshine View Post

I'm a fan of some frozen veg., as in peas.  Unless you grow them yourself they are best used from frozen.  The sweetness leaves them very fast if you are trying to buy them fresh.  I just nuke them for a few mins with a splash of water till just done.


I disagree with you on that. I use both fresh and frozen peas (I can't always buy fresh), and there's a world of difference between the two. I buy them from an organic farmer at the farmer's market. Maybe we don't have access to the same source of fresh peas? I never noticed the sweetness leaved very fast but I'll try to pay attention to it - sometimes we cook them 2-3 days after buying. In any case sweetness is not the only thing. The flavor and texture is much better (IMO) than frozen peas.

 

I agree with you on tinned tomatoes, though: very useful for sauces etc...

 

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by uberathlete View Post

Veggies should be al dente.


 

Well.. that's... if you WANT them to be al dente. There's no "should be", different tastes exist in nature.

 

Also, that's quite a broad statement. Ever had a beet al dente? A turnip al dente? A potato al dente? Eggplants? Collard Greens? What about purees? Sauces? Braises? Stocks? Soups?

 

You know about a week ago, I made "courgette confites" on the grill at a party: cut small zucchinis in 4 lengthwise, lather with good olive oil, salt and pepper, and slow cooked them on a slow grill for about an hour. I must have had maybe 5 persons come back to me up to a week later telling me they were the best zucchinis they'd ever had, while one person said they were ok but he'd prefered if they still had a bit of a bite to them. Different tastes.


Edited by French Fries - 4/7/11 at 8:24pm
post #8 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post




 

Well.. that's... if you WANT them to be al dente. There's no "should be", different tastes exist in nature.

 

Also, that's quite a broad statement. Ever had a beet al dente? A turnip al dente? A potato al dente? Eggplants? Collard Greens? What about purees? Sauces? Braises? Stocks? Soups?

 

You know about a week ago, I made "courgette confites" on the grill at a party: cut small zucchinis in 4 lengthwise, lather with good olive oil, salt and pepper, and slow cooked them on a slow grill for about an hour. I must have had maybe 5 persons come back to me up to a week later telling me they were the best zucchinis they'd ever had, while one person said they were ok but he'd prefered if they still had a bit of a bite to them. Different tastes.


I think as a general rule for beginners, al dente is a good guide. Obviously texture will depend on the type of veg, the dish, purpose, etc. To me it's a bit nonsensical to tell someone not really versed in cooking to just cook to his taste, because that just causes even more confusion.  They can start with general rules of thumb then work their way from there as they become more comfortable.

 

post #9 of 23

Cooking vegetable al Dente is not for everyone's tastes. There are many people who consider these to be still raw.

Yes we can try to educate people and tell them that cooking al Dente is the way to go, but in the end it is still a personal choice.

As for frozen vegetables, I find that when thawed first the cooking process doesn't take much more than a few minutes.

post #10 of 23

The question is extremely broad and I can see why you're overwhelmed.  It all comes down to a matter of personal taste.  Vegetables have the capacity of being eaten raw, slightly cooked, or cooked beyond mush with great results. 

 

First of all, I'm glad to see you are forging into eating fresh.  Nothing wrong with frozen veggies of course, especially peas, corn, spinach and okra, but you'll find that while a vegetable is in season you can't beat the taste and texture of the real thing.  Some things to consider are that above all else, most vegetables will deliver their optimal nutrition in their raw form, with the exception of tomatoes (whose licopene content benefits from cooking) and carrots, maybe some others I'm not aware of.  So the first step is to learn how to enjoy veggies in their raw state.  Get yourself some good hummus and start dipping raw broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, celery, and zucchini.  Also chop these up in salads.

 

Next you'll want to try lightly steaming.  Good vegetables for this are broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, green beans etc.  Get to know how well steamed you like these.  Do you like a bit of crunch?  Or do you like them soft?  It's all up to you.

 

Then there are the wonderful veggies that love to be slow cooked.  Tomatoes, green beans, okra, eggplant, all benefit in a nice stew.  Personally I don't like green beans unless they are stewed.

 

And what about grilling?  Yum!  eggplant, zucchni, bell peppers, even fruit can be grilled with success.  I'm so happy to hear you'll be venturing away from frozen veggies.  Although perfectly nutritious they are very limited to what you can do with them.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by OnePiece View Post

I know this sounds odd, but I am confused on what has to be done for some veggies to be considered cooked.  Coming from the stand point of always using frozen veggies, tossing them in a saute pan, and cooking them at a medium to high temperature, I am sort of lost.  Is there a good source on how various items should be prepared?


 


It's a very good idea to stop buying frozen food and go for fresh veggies! There's nothing like it. Also, try to buy seasonal veggies. They're the ones that are mostly fresher, abundantly available when in season, bursting with taste and vitamines and... cheaper than anything else.

Of course it's much more work, but you're a foodie so it can't be a problem. All hobbies cost time.

And, there's a learning curve too. Need advise on preparing a particular veggie? Just ask. 
 

 

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post

 

 

I've often shared my opinion that green beans blanched for 15mn develop a flavor that you can't get from a green bean that was cooked for a shorter amount of time. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate a raw green bean, an almost raw green bean, an al dente green bean, or an 8mn blanched green bean. But they are different. If you find a copy of the "Silver Spoon" Italian cookbook, you'll see that all the green bean recipes recommend blanching them for 15mn. I'm sure most Americans would find this to be way too long. 

 

As you start experimenting with different methods and different cooking times, you'll quickly develop a taste for what you (and your family or guests) like better. Enjoy!

 

 



   I agree 100%...and green beans are a great example.  The doness of vegetables depends on what it's sitting beside. 

 

 

   i recommend finding out how to cook vegetables by eating them at various stages along the road of doneness, starting with eating them raw.

 

  Have fun!

  Dan

 

post #13 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post




I disagree with you on that. I use both fresh and frozen peas (I can't always buy fresh), and there's a world of difference between the two. I buy them from an organic farmer at the farmer's market. Maybe we don't have access to the same source of fresh peas? I never noticed the sweetness leaved very fast but I'll try to pay attention to it - sometimes we cook them 2-3 days after buying. In any case sweetness is not the only thing. The flavor and texture is much better (IMO) than frozen peas.

 

I agree with you on tinned tomatoes, though: very useful for sauces etc...

 



Each to their own :)  It's also a case of convenience I suppose, out of the freezer, nuke them, serve.  When time is limited they do it for me.

 

I'm really glad the OP, Onepiece, is looking into a new avenue of cooking with fresh veg.  So much can be done with them and definitely more flavour, texture, variety, and better dietary benefits from fresh.

 

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #14 of 23

The ONLY frozen veg I use is garden peas - I just hate the mushiness of most of the others.  The tinned ones?  Nope, hate them.

 

I love to use fresh veggies, in season.

 

Edited to add:  I DO use tinned Italian tomatoes, butter and other beans, if I'm in a hurry and can't be bothered to soak overnight!  I prefer to spend more on food and less on other things - food is not cheap in the UK, in comparison to the USA and even Australia, in my experience.


Edited by Ishbel - 4/11/11 at 5:39am
post #15 of 23

but you'll find that while a vegetable is in season you can't beat the taste and texture of the real thing. 

 

Just for a different point of view: This, and similar comments, add up to the biggest myth in the food world. iEven in season, whether or not the taste and texture improve depends on where and when the vegetable was grown.

 

If you grew it yourself, and just went out in the yard and picked it, everything said about fresh is true.

 

If you bought it at a growers-only farmers market, and the veggie was picked just yesterday (or possibly even this morning) and brought directly to market, also true. That is, in fact, the focus of the whole locovore movement.

 

However, if you're buying at a supermarket or other such store, frozen can actually be better in the same way that FAS fish can be better than "fresh."

 

It has to do with the nature of the food distribution system, and the simple fact that most markets, at least in North America, do not source locally at all, or do so only to a minor degree---which leads to such anomolies as, at the height of sweet-corn season, the boxes at the supermarket saying "product of Mexico."

 

There are other considerations. When I worked for Package Engineering magazine there was a study done that compared the total value of vegetables. Fresh, canned, and frozen were compared for quality and taste, and for their contribution to the solid waste disposal problem. The report from the organization performing the study wryly noted: We did this study in the summer. Would have liked to have redone it in the winter, but only two of the three forms were available."

 

That's not an unimportant consideration. Given a choice between a vegetable that was grown 2,000 miles away, and subjected to the abuses of the food-distribution system, on one hand, or the same veggies harvested, prepped, and flash frozen within hours, which really has the best flavor, texture, and nutritional value?

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 23

KY - True, the word "fresh" is relative to how the distribution system in america works.  I for one cannot afford a $3 tomato from my farmer's market but I sure know the difference between it and the supermarket version.  Good produce and animal products are extremely expensive, if you can get them fresh from a farm they're great.  I know that when I have a salad from my mother's garden the arugula is so flavorful and peppery that it actually bites me back.  Big difference with the arugula I buy at the supermarket.  But we all do what we can.  Unfortunately I can't afford to always buy the best of the best.

 

This past week I made a dish of pork chops with roasted potatoes.  The seasoning was olive oil, butter, lemon, garlic, and thyme.  The flavor was non-existent.  Although hungry I had to stop eating because the pork tasted like nothing and the potatoes tasted like nothing.  Ok so I didn't buy organic prime pork, but still, is food not supposed to taste like anything?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #17 of 23

>Unfortunately I can't afford to always buy the best of the best.<

 

This is the nub of the issue, KK. And it's why I've said, more than once, that the locovore and similar philosopies are inherently elitist.

 

As Americans we are used to plentiful, inexpensive, food. Even the current skyrocketing prices are a bargain compared to what fresh, locally grown can cost. Which means the whole locovore, organic, growers-only farmer's market is reserved, by and large, for the more affluent.

 

Unfortunately, the factory farm system, which is the basis of our agricultural economy, does not take either flavor nor nutrition into account. So we're left with what we have----bland, tasteless, nutritionally sterile inexpensive food, on one hand, or flavorsome, nutritious, locally grown, expensive food on the other.

 

The only middle ground is for people like myself, fortunate enough to have enough land to grow all my requirements if need be.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post

>

 

As Americans we are used to plentiful, inexpensive, food. Even the current skyrocketing prices are a bargain compared to what fresh, locally grown can cost. Which means the whole locovore, organic, growers-only farmer's market is reserved, by and large, for the more affluent.

 

 

I'm hoping that the more we buy of these the more we'll drive prices down.  I try to vote with my dollars whenever I can but you're right, sometimes the cost of making a meal at home is more expensive than going out to dinner unfortunately.  The price of food nowadays is astonishing. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #19 of 23

I'm hoping that the more we buy of these the more we'll drive prices down.

 

While that does work with many consumer products, KK, food isn't one of them.

 

What you have to consider, as part of the supply/demand process, is that there just isn't enough land close enough to population centers, to supply the growing demand. Indeed, that's the whole point of the factory farms and food distribution system in the first place----to grow it cheaply then move it to where it's needed.

 

So, as more people buy locally grown; organically grown; alternative market supplied fresh foods the prices have to get even higher.

 

In theory the modern electronic world could provide a solution. Being as we no longer have to live and work in huge herds, the population should be able to disperse away from the cities. If we primarily lived in small towns and private freeholds there would be more than enough local land to feed us. In short, we'd be able to return to a 19th century type lifestyle, but with none of the hardships.

 

That's the theory. The reality is, however, that for every person using long-distance communication productively we find two people sitting side by side  texting each other. Or other equally innane uses.

 

The absolute reality is that so long as the population remains arranged the way it is, so, too, will the factory farm/long range distribution system. Short of a Malthusian catastrope, there is no other way to feed us.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #20 of 23

So, after threadjacking the conversation, I figure I owe OnePiece a direct answer.

 

Is there a good source on how various items should be prepared?
 

There is no one source (although there are numerous vegetable cookbooks) because there isn't just one method Fresh vegetables lend themselves to a diversity of cooking styles, and "doneness" is, as has been said, a matter of personal taste.

 

Boiling/steaming and sauteening are, perhaps, the most popular ways of preparing veggies. But think a little outside the Bird'sEye box. Most veggies, not just roots, lend themselves to roasting. And if there's anything better than bacon-wrapped asparagus cooked on the grill I don't know what it is.

 

If you're used to sauteed frozen veggies, as seems to be the case, the starting point for you should be the tender-crisp stage. Generally that's what you're getting now. Then, as you gain experience with each vegetable type, you can modify it to meet your own taste criteria.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KYHeirloomer View Post
...And if there's anything better than bacon-wrapped asparagus cooked on the grill I don't know what it is....

As an illustration of personal taste, I respectfully disagree, Prosciutto wrapped asparagus tops bacon wrapped asparagus! rollsmile.gif
 

 

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post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post



As an illustration of personal taste, I respectfully disagree, Prosciutto wrapped asparagus tops bacon wrapped asparagus! rollsmile.gif
 

 


I was going to say the same thing tongue.gif
 

 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #23 of 23

I respectfully disagree, Prosciutto wrapped asparagus tops bacon wrapped asparagus!

 

Actually I was using bacon generically, Pete, cuz, truth be told, I never can spell prosciutto.

 

I would agree with you 100% except I really prefer Serrano for that purpose. But as you say, it's a matter of personal taste

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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