Summer Produce

Keep it Bright: Blanching Vegetables

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The weather's gorgeous and no one wants to be indoors cooking for hours. Hence, blanching is the perfect vegetable technique for Spring. Many vegetables can be blanched in a pot full of boiling water until crisp and slightly under-done. Drain the vegetables and immediately plunge into a bath of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the bright color. You can cook several night’s worth of vegetables this way and store them in the fridge in containers lined with paper towel to capture the moisture. 

To use, sauté vegetables in good oil or butter just until warmed through or toss them into a salad. Mix vegetables that are grown in the same season; they naturally taste delicious together. 

Here’s a list of vegetables to use for blanching and fun combinations for sautéing. The italicised vegetables should not be blanched.

Asparagus, snow peas or sugar snap peas with:

  • Green onion, shaved fennel and slivered ham or prosciutto
  • Salted cashews
  • Sugar snap peas and frozen petite peas, lemon zest
  • Sesame seeds sautéd in sesame oil

Carrots with:

  • Green onion, lime juice, and chopped cashews
  • Ghee or coconut oil with cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper
  • Cauliflower, mint & preserved lemon

Broccolini with:

  • Garlic, olive oil and chili flakes
  • Capers, toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts 

Green beans with:

  • Bacon and toasted walnuts or pecans
  • Diced tomatoes, garlic and nicoise or black olives

Carrots with:

  • Caraway seeds
  • Chick peas, Moroccan spices

Broccoli, cauliflower with:

  • Garlic, crumbled (leftover) Italian sausage
  • Raisins soaked in hot water then sautéed, blue cheese crumbles, pine-nuts
  • Cauliflower with curry and raisins
  • Sautéd mushrooms, shallots, basil, Pecorino 
  • Brown butter, pumpkin seeds, cumin

Blanched Spring Vegetables with Arugula, Olive Oil, Lemon & Cheese

Here's a quick, delicious, and very detoxifying salad that I love to make-

In a bowl, add a large handful of arugula per person along with a handful of blanched vegetables per person.  Note that in the photo, I've used asparagus, snap peas and fava beans. Toss with just enough good quality olive oil to coat the leaves with no oil puddling at the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze fresh lemon juice to taste and toss with a spoonful of capers. Cover with a blanket of freshly grated Parmesan. Enjoy!

 

Chicken Monterey

This recipe highlights California fruits and vegetables using summer squash, oregano and orange. It's light, packed with vegetables and refreshing. It's pretty enough for a special meal and great to prep in the cool of the morning then finish in the crockpot. 

  • 5 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots, chopped (I like the red & yellow carrots)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup or more chicken broth
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1 lg. sprig fresh oregano or rosemary, minced 
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 red pepper, cored and stemmed, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  • 1 small yellow zucchini, cut julienne (matchsticks)
  •     For the garnish:
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced and mixed with 1 Tbls. orange zest
  • Salt and pepper (white pepper is nice here)

On medium-high, heat 3 Tbls. of the oil in a large skillet. Pat the chicken pieces dry, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until a light golden on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. 

Turn the heat down to low and add the onions, carrots and garlic to the oil. Cover and sweat, cooking until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover the skillet and add the stock, orange juice, tomatoes, and oregano. Simmer uncovered, for 15 minutes. 

Return chicken pieces to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn and baste the chicken and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is done.

  • At this point, the chicken can be cooled and then chilled to use another day. Gently reheat the chicken in the sauce and proceed. 
  • To cook in a crockpot, instead of simmering on the stove, add the pieces, broth, juice, etc. to the crockpot and proceed following your crockpot recommendations for chicken.

To serve:

In a clean skillet, over medium heat, add remaining 2 Tbls. olive oil and sauté the red peppers for 5 minutes. Raise the heat and add the zucchini. Sauté until tender but firm, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place the chicken in a deep platter or on individual plates and cover with the sauce-vegetable mixture.

Top each piece with a mound of the pepper-zucchini mixture and garnish with a sprinkle of the parsley-orange zest mixture.

Adapted years ago from The Silver Palate Cookbook