Blanching vegetables locks in color and crunch

Asparagus

Spring vegetables are exciting for cooks because they are fresh, delicious, and fast. You can maximize their bright flavors and colors by blanching them before using, and indexed blog Serious Eats provides a guide to using the technique with all manner of vegetables.

Blanching vegetables serves a number of purposes. First, blanching destroys "enough cellular structure to just barely tenderize your vegetable to the point that it has lost its raw, fibrous edge, but still retains crunch." The second benefit is that the color becomes vibrant - and stays that way. This happens because "intercellular gasses will expand and escape from the vegetable. This initial escape of gas is what causes the color of a vegetable to change from pale green to a vibrant, bright green-the gas pockets that had been diffusing light suddenly disappear, allowing the full color of the chlorophyll pigment to stand out."

In addition to a timing chart and guides for specific vegetables like English peas, asparagus, and fiddleheads, Serious Eats provides three rules for blanching. First is that you should always have the blanching water at a rolling boil to make the changes noted above happen quickly without overcooking the vegetables. Second, you should blanch each vegetable separately because the timing is different for each one. Third, you should shock the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process. The article notes that this last step is controversial, but offers evidence to support keeping the step in place.

Once your vegetables are blanched and shocked, they'll retain their color and texture better than non-blanced vegetables. You can use them in a variety of recipes, or just eat them cold with your favorite dip.

Photo of Grilled asparagus with almond-parsley gremolata from indexed blog Serious Eats

 

1 Comment

  • LDGourmet  on  5/13/2015 at 8:22 PM

    Only recently learned about blanching basil for pesto. Bright green pesto for day!

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