Avoid Destroying the Color, Texture and Nutrients in Vegetables!


By Chef Todd Mohr

Nutrients in vegetables usually wind up in the green colored water you've just cooked them in. Have you ever noticed that if you cook carrots in water, you've got orange colored liquid and carrots that taste like water? Where do you think the nutrients go?

If you want to avoid destroying the color, texture, and nutrients in your vegetables, there are some simple adjustments you can make in your cooking. By controlling the heat and understanding the effect of acids and bases in cooking, you can make vegetables even children will eat!

Keep in mind that there's a BIG difference between boil, simmer, and poach. Most people make the mistake of cooking everything at a violent, rapid boil. You shouldn't use the highest amount of MOIST heat by boiling any more than you'd put everything in your oven at 500F to cook in a DRY method. You control the heat and get better results.

You can destroy the nutrients in vegetables by treating them too rough. Boil is 212F/100C, and has large, violent bubbles in the liquid. Items are bounced around and cooked at the highest MOIST temperature you can achieve. Nothing in the kitchen should be boiled.

Simmer is characterized by small bubbles in your cooking liquid, usually around the edges of the pan. Items in a proper simmer are cooked at 185F/85C to 200F/93C and move about softly in the environment. This is a much gentler way to cook, and most things in the kitchen should be simmered.

Poaching temperatures are even lower, from 165F/74C to 185F/85C and have no bubbles visible. The poaching liquid has a slight convection to it. Large items don't move, smaller bits slowly float across the liquid in a leisurely fashion.

The first thing you can do to retain nutrients in vegetables is to cook them as softly as possible in a moist environment. This means poaching them, not subjecting them to a violent boil.

Acids and bases also act upon the color, texture, and nutritional value of vegetables during cooking. I've created a small science experiment to demonstrate this fact.

With three pots of water at a soft simmer, I'll add vinegar (an acid) to one. The second pot gets baking soda (a base), and the third is left alone as a control baseline.

Green vegetables poached in acid will become very drab and turn an olive or army green. However, green vegetables poached in baking soda will become a vibrant, bright green.

Not only will the drab green bean poached in acid have its color dulled, but it is now very flexible. It can be bent without breaking. The green item poached in baking soda has a crisp "crack" to it when broken.

Acids will dull the color and texture of green vegetables.

However, the direct opposite is true of most other colored vegetables. Carrots poached in vinegar will retain their color and texture; while the same item poached in a base liquid turns very mushy. The same is true of white vegetables, like onions and potatoes.

So, what does this mean to the household cook? It explains why potatoes cooked for Potato Salad should be cooked in an acidic liquid. It will keep them white and keep you from having mashed potato salad. They'll hold their shape.

Have you ever cooked green beans and tomatoes together? Or, perhaps okra, turnip greens, or spinach cooked with tomatoes? Did you notice that the green item looks limp and drab? You now know the underlying science behind it. Acids destroy the color and texture of green vegetables.

When I'm finished with this experiment, I notice one last thing. The poaching liquid that I added vinegar to is clear. It still looks like water. However, the baking soda bath is a slight green/orange color.

Since acids firm textures of vegetables, they also prevent the leaching of nutrients and color into the cooking liquid.

You can retain the color, texture, and nutrients in vegetables by being mindful of your cooking process. Don't subject your delicate ingredients to a high-heat violent boil. Vegetables should be poached or steamed. And, if you want to keep them looking bright and tasting crisp, use a bit of vinegar during cooking on all colors but green. For them, use a touch of baking soda.

See Chef Todd's experiment Keep Nutrients in Vegetables in a live demonstration. Chef Todd Mohr has inspired thousands of people to improve their health and nutrition through healthy cooking. His FREE online webinar " How To Cook Fresh in 5 Easy Steps" reveals the secrets to selecting, cooking, and storing farm fresh ingredients for easy everyday home cooking.

Article Source: EzineArticles

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