Blanching vegetables sounds easy. It’s a step often skimmed over by recipes and cookbooks, which instruct the reader to cook until “al dente,” like pasta. But finding the sweet spot of crisp tenderness can mean the difference between delicious, bright vegetables and mushy ones lacking in flavor.
The key step is shocking, or submerging the vegetables in ice water after boiling. It stops the cooking immediately and ensures the vegetables maintain their color, making for a nicer presentation. Another tip: taste as you go. Just like cooking pasta, you can never be sure if you have achieved the consistency you want until you bite into the vegetable you’re cooking.
Follow the steps below for your best blanched veggies yet — and scroll down for the perfect recipe to show them off.
|Briefly boil the vegetables
Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add about 2 teaspoons salt and the vegetables to be blanched, or partially cooked. Here, we are blanching asparagus.
|Remove the blanched vegetables
As soon as the vegetables are crisp, barely tender (taste a piece) and brightly colored, remove them, from the water with a skimmer or slotted spoon. For small vegetables, drain them in a colander.
|Shock the vegetables
Immediately transfer the blanched vegetables to a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking and set the color, a technique known as shocking.
|Pat the vegetables dry
As soon as they are cool, drain the vegetables and pat them dry.
Garlic Aioli with Garden Vegetables
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 raw eggs
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups olive oil
3/4 lb. slender asparagus spears, tough ends removed, spears blanched
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and blanched
8 to 10 small carrots, blanched
8 to 10 small waxy potatoes, halved and blanched
1 bunch radishes
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered
1 baguette, cut into slices 1/4 inch thick
In a blender, blend the garlic and salt. Add the raw eggs, lemon juice and mustard and blend again. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate the aioli until ready to serve.
Serve the aioli on a platter with the asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, radishes, hard-cooked eggs and baguette slices for dipping. Serves 4.