Jacques Chibois, La Bastide Saint-Antoine, France
Green beans, broccoli, spinach… Cooking green vegetables
Never steam your greens! They’ll taste better, cook faster, retain their attractive color and keep their healthful properties.
Very few chefs teach us the theory of cooking. They might explain a recipe but they don't get to the bottom of things: they don't tell us why a thing is done a certain way. To be a good cook, to do a recipe well, you have to understand what you are doing. The basic principle in cooking green vegetables is to use a large amount of water, and to add – this is essential – 30 g (1 oz.) of salt per liter (4 cups) of water, which in physical terms means you are making the water heavier than normal; the water density will be greater than the density of the vegetables. "Why?" you may ask. Because when you drop the vegetables into the hot salted water, a "wall" will be created around the vegetables which will prevent their vitamins and minerals from escaping.
Why do green vegetables not stand up to steaming?
First of all, steam cooking opens up the pores of the product. Vitamins and minerals immediately begin to escape and the good wholesome vegetables that you planned to enjoy no longer contain the nutrients that you expected.
Secondly, for a vegetable to be green, it must contain chlorophyll, and when chlorophyll is cooked, a carbon dioxide-filled steam is created. When you steam vegetables, the pan must be kept covered to prevent the steam from escaping. Therefore the carbon dioxide is trapped inside and turns the chlorophyll dark. The vegetables become gray and drab. The salt water principle creates a barrier against carbon dioxide so that the vegetables stay attractive and bright green.
Cooking from A to Z - Example: Green beans
- It is important to begin with a large quantity of salted water and to bring it to a boil before adding the vegetables so that their pore openings will be quickly blocked.
- Cook for about 10 minutes until tender: neither overcooked nor crunchy!
- Drain; drop into ice water for a second to stop the cooking and set the color; drain again.
- Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil from Puglia (Italy), a fruity oil with vegetable overtones that pairs deliciously with green vegetables.
I like my green beans in salads, with shrimp ….
Be careful! If you prefer to sauté your green beans in a skillet, do not cover the pan to keep the beans warm while you are waiting to serve them. After all the trouble you've taken to cook your vegetables perfectly, you'll end up with little blackened beans giving you the evil eye! Remember: chlorophyll, carbon dioxide…
Hints & Tips