Sunday, September 15, 2013

How to Keep Cooked Broccoli Bright Green

 

I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to incorporate green vegetables into your diet, they are the most important super foods on the planet and also the most ignored and omitted. But when cooking fresh green broccoli, or any other green vegetables, there is nothing worse than having them come out an unhealthy bland color. There is a way to preserve the bright green color in your vegetables, and it's easier than you may think.

How Do We Avoid the Discoloration of Green Vegetables When Cooking Them?

I’m always amazed by how long some people cook tiny green beans! The main culprit for turning green veggies into mushy, yellowish-brown unidentifiable objects is overcooking them. The longer that vegetables are exposed to heat (in particular boiling water), the more nutrients they lose, the more discolored they become and the more soggy they end up.

how-to-keep-cooked-broccoli-bight-green


Cook veggies until ‘tender crisp’
When you are cooking green vegetables whether they’re green beans, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or peas, aim for them to be “tender crisp.” Tender crisp vegetables mean they are cooked through, but still firm enough to slightly resist your bite.

Best cooking method for green vegetables
The best way to cook green vegetables is quickly and on high heat for the amount of time required to create that tender crisp result and no longer. This means placing green beans in a pot of boiling water rather than putting a pot of cold or room temperature water on the stove and then turning on the heat. The latter method means the veggies will slowly start cooking as the water heats up, and by the time it’s boiling, the beans will be limp, soggy and void of both nutrition and color. So, the best way to enjoy and keep your veggies green is to opt for a high cooking temperature, and a short cooking time.

The intense green that vegetables acquire after cooking for a few seconds in boiling water results from the release of gases trapped in the spaces between the vegetable cells.

Generally, these pockets of air act as magnifying glasses that highlight the color of the chloroplasts, the green organelles that are responsible for the transformation of carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Vegetables, however, are usually cooked longer than a few seconds, thus destroying the atmosphere that shows these vegetables in their best light. Spinach cooked too long turns brown, sorrel as well; leeks lose their greenness, and so on.

How to retain that appetizing color?
The cooks of antiquity were the first to make advances toward explaining this phenomenon. They observed that green vegetables remained very green when saltpeter or ashes were added to cooking water. Why?

When a green vegetable is heated, some of its cells burst, releasing various organic acids. The hydrogen ions of these acids react with chlorophyll molecules (which contribute to the green color of green vegetables) because these molecules contain a large square chemical pattern, the porphyrin group, at the center of which is a magnesium atom. Now, the hydrogen ions have a bad habit of taking the place of the magnesium ion in this porphyrin group and of thus transforming the various kinds of chlorophylls into pheophytins, which absorb different components of light. Instead of retaining all the light rays except those of the color green, pheophytins reflect a mixture of wavelengths that produce the perception of a horrible brown.

But from this analysis emerges a solution: not heating the vegetables for too long, so that the magnesium will remain in its chlorophyll cage.

A few corollaries are equally essential. To retain the color of green vegetables, avoid lidded earthenware pots and opt for steaming, because if they are not immersed in water, the vegetables are not in contact with the hydrogen ions. If vegetables are cooked in water, large quantities of water should be used. Finally, adding vinegar to the cooking water for green vegetables should be absolutely avoided, as it will enhance the bad effects you wish to avoid. Be aware, too, that many juices from fruits are very acidic (and that the acidity one perceives can be hidden by sugars).

Naturally, inventive cooks have thought of cooking green vegetables in the presence of salts, which provide ions that can occupy the positions hydrogen ions would otherwise take. That is why green vegetables were cooked in copper pans, called “regreening pans,” and why, later in history, copper salts were used; with these methods, the green remained intense ... but the vegetables became toxic. Indeed, a law prohibited the practice of adding copper salts in 1902. More recently, processes using zinc ions have been patented.

Adding a base to the cooking water in order to neutralize the acids as they form has also been considered. This solution was already familiar to the Romans. Apicius, famous for his gastronomical extravagances, wrote, “Omne holus smarugdinum fit, si cum nitro coquantur” (All vegetables will be the color of emerald if they are cooked with niter). The same effect occurs with ashes, where potash is present. Alas, niter, or saltpeter, and potash ruin the taste.


What is the Best Way to Cook Green Vegetables?

1. Cook quickly. Fresh peas and beans need only a brief flash in the saute pan or steamer basket in order to be cooked perfectly. As soon as the vegetables are crisp and green, remove them from the heat to avoid overcooking and discoloration.

2. Saute over low-medium heat. To avoid blistering and retain color, saute snap peas over lower heat; cook them over high heat and they will wrinkle in a heartbeat. When cooking snap peas, I add a few spoonfuls of water to the pan to gently steam them or I scatter them on top of other vegetables that I'm cooking in the same pan, then cover the pan so the snap peas steam instead of fry. The result is glossy, gorgeously green snap peas with a sweet crunch.



3. Add acidic ingredients just before serving. Green bean salad is a real treat during the summer. But acids, such as lemon juice, tomatoes and vinegar attack the green in the beans and turn them a dingy brown. To retain vibrant color, prepare your beans and dressing separately, then combine just before serving.

4. Blanch smartly.  Blanching is a cooking method used for retaining the color and crispness of green vegetables. The process involves boiling the vegetables, then plunging them in cold water to stop the cooking process. But beware! Up to 40% of B and C vitamins get leached out into cooking liquid, so I advise against traditional blanching. Instead, try my method that I call nutritional blanching: Steam the vegetables until bright and tender, then spread them out on a large plate or baking sheet in order to stop the cooking process. You'll get the same results as traditional blanching while retaining more B and C vitamins.

In summary, to enjoy your green vegetables, opt for a high cooking temperature, and a short cooking time. You need a little dietary fat to absorb some of the vitamins found in dark green vegetables so be sure to add a bit of oil (such as olive oil) butter or coconut oil to your dark green vegetables to make sure your body absorbs all of the vitamins.


If you like vegetables you should know about this... Complete Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home


Cooking Video- How To Keep Broccoli Bright Green After Cooking


Try... Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff- Healthy Recipe

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