1. Raw Veggies
Sometimes the best way to enjoy vegetables is to not cook them at all. Even when I am prepping veggies for cooking, I always munch on a few pieces raw. That’s the way you really taste the vegetable in its natural state and keep all those nutrients. Of course, not cooking veggies doesn’t mean you have to just eat them plain like a rabbit. Enjoy all sorts of greens and other vegetables in refreshing salads tossed in amazing dressings. Make soups in the blender or noodles out of squash. There are plenty of ways to prepare raw vegetables with marinades, sauces, herbs and spices and turn them into a beautifully composed dish.
Try this Zucchini Pasta with Pumpkin Seeds and Garlic, Raw Lasagna with Cilantro Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes and Marinated Veggies, Avocado Kale Chili Salad, and this Creamy and Raw Butternut Squash Soup with Marinated Mushrooms.
2. Boiling Veggies
Boiling is an easy and fast way to get crisp, bright veggies, though you need to do it right or they could end up gray and mushy with no nutrients left inside them. The key is to make sure the vegetables spend the minimum amount of time necessary in the boiling water. Hearty vegetables like broccoli, green beans and cauliflower are good choices for boiling. To boil vegetables, simply bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt, and add your veggies.
Cook them for only a few minutes until they are bright in color and as tender as you like them. That is called blanching. Remember that the veggies will continue to cook a bit after you take them out of the water so either remove them a minute or two early or run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Use this method to make a Snap Pea Salad with Almonds in an Herbed Vinaigrette.
Simmering is similar, except you add the veggies before the water boils and let them cook at a lower temperature for a longer time. This method works well with veggies that need longer to cook like potatoes, beets, turnips and yams. Use this method to simmer the vegetables in this Eggplant, Onion and Tomato Stew.
3. Steaming Veggies
If you don’t want to submerge your veggies in water or cook them in oil, steaming might be the choice for you. Steaming cooks vegetables, making them tender, bright, flavorful and retains many of their nutrients. Steaming is a good method for delicate vegetables such as asparagus or greens, or those that need to get softened before sautéing like Brussels sprouts or carrots.
To steam vegetables, bring some water in a pot to a rapid simmer or easy boil, add a steamer basket or colander on top and place the veggies in the basket. You can add aromatics like garlic or ginger to the water to add flavor to the vegetables. Let the veggies steam until they are bright in color and as tender as you want them. After steaming, sprinkle your veggies with salt, fresh lemon, herbs or dip them in a savory sauce. Indulge in Chinese food without all the oil with my Steamed Vegetables in Garlic Sauce.
4. Sautéing Veggies
Sautéing is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables, mainly because it’s quick, easy and the veggies get a ton of flavor. They also keep a lot of their nutrients since it is such a fast method of cooking. Sautéing involves cooking veggies over high heat in a pan with a bit of oil and aromatics. This method works for almost any vegetable including greens, asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, onions and green beans. Cut your veggies into equally sized pieces for even cooking.
Heat your pan over medium-high heat, add oil and let the oil heat up until it starts to shimmer. Add any aromatics such as onion, garlic, ginger or chile pepper, and saute them until they are softened. Add the veggies, being careful not to crowd the pan. Season the veggies with your favorite herbs and spices. Stir the veggies often in the pan and cook until they are crisp-tender.
Practice sautéing by making this Early Light Summer Veggie Saute, Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Red Chile Flakes and Sauteed Spinach in Tomato Fennel Sauce. Also check out 10 Creative Ways to Saute Spinach for even more ideas.
5. Stir-Frying Veggies
Some people use the terms “saute” and “stir-fry” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Stir-frying happens at a much higher heat than sautéing does and at a much faster speed. The food also has to be constantly stirred and tossed so it doesn’t burn. Stir-frying is seen in Asian cuisine, and it is a fast way to make dinner for the whole family. With stir-frying, it is important to prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Since the food cooks so fast, there is no time to chop veggies during the process. While stir-frying is usually done in a wok, a saute pan works just as well as long as there is lots of surface area for the food.