How to Steam Vegetables

March 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

One of the easiest ways of preparing food, especially vegetables, is by steaming. This is not my favorite method of cooking, because you don’t get the depth of flavor produced by roasting or the ability to layer flavors produced by sautéing. However, steaming is hands down the easiest, quickest and healthiest way to prepare food. Since this blog is about breaking down cooking to it’s most basic components, I figure this is a great technique to write about.

First, you will need a steamer basket to suspend food above boiling water. You can find either a metal, plastic or bamboo basket that has small holes or slits in the bottom. This allows the steam to cook the food, instead of submerging food in water, as with boiling or blanching, so you don’t lose nutrients into the cooking water. Metal steaming baskets are common in any grocery store that sells kitchen supplies, and you can find them on-line for right around $10. You can also find bamboo steamers at an Asian market or on-line for about the same price. « Read the rest of this entry »

Penne with Pesto, Zucchini & Mushrooms

February 6, 2012 § 9 Comments

I think pasta is one of the most enjoyable foods to cook. I can’t really explain it, but I have a lot of fun with pasta. Part of that is because it is such a broad category with almost endless variations – you can really throw just about anything into a pasta and have it turn out well. You just have to exercise some restraint. The secret is to not overwhelm the pasta with sauce or other ingredients. Despite the endless variations, however, there are certain pastas I find myself making again and again. This is recipe for penne with pesto, zucchini and mushrooms is of them.

During the summer months, when Kitt’s garden is really taking off, we end up with a lot of basil and a lot of zucchini. This pasta is a great way to use both of these ingredients. I always enjoy pairing zucchini with cremini mushrooms because they not only taste great together, they also cook at the same rate. And one of the easiest ways to take advantage of lots of basil is to make pesto. We make huge batches in the summer, and then freeze several portions of it to thaw throughout the year – which is why I’m posting this in winter! For this recipe, you can use store bought pesto or make your own. « Read the rest of this entry »

How to Saute Vegetables

February 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

In my article, “How to Sweat Vegetables,” I talked a bit about the difference between sweating and sautéing. To quickly recap: sweating releases the aroma of vegetables without changing the flavor. With sautéing, however, the goal is to brown the vegetables, giving them a rich flavor.

Sautéing also requires a slightly different cooking method than sweating. When sautéing, you want to use a higher heat, more oil and a wide pan. I sautee on medium high to high heat, depending on what I’m cooking. Vegetables with a lot of water – such as zucchini, mushrooms or cabbage – cook better on high heat, while vegetables that are more dense – such carrots, fennel or onion – should be cooked on medium high, so they don’t burn before they’re done. « Read the rest of this entry »

Vegetable Barley Soup

January 3, 2012 § 12 Comments

It’s winter time, which means that many of us have already been or will be sick. And clearly, the meal of choice when sick is soup. So, instead of spending money at the store for cans of soup of dubious quality, you can easily make soup at home. Homemade soup can be packed into the freezer in reusable containers – perfect for weeks when you are busy or sick.

One of my favorite soups to make is this vegetable barley soup. It’s cheap, delicious and nutritious. It has a lot of vegetables, some hearty grains, and a rich broth that’s slightly spicy. All that good stuff you really want when you’re sick. I hope this one keeps you warm and happy this winter! « Read the rest of this entry »

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