Archives for: April 2005, 01
I am cooking collard greens for lunch, and it brought back a long forgotten memory. I grew up in the 50s and 60s when women boiled vegetables in pots full of water. One day my Dad came home and told my Mom that he had read in a scientific journal that many vitamins were water soluble, and that the more water you used when you cooked, the more vitamins were lost from your food. It was a radical new concept for both of them. My mom began to change her cooking style.
Why I remember this conversation I don't know. I didn't eat vegetables at the time, so I didn't care how they were cooked. The only thing I knew about vitamins was that they came in a pill called One-A-Day.
Years later when I read my first book on nutrition the author was adamantly against boiling vegetables. She cited all sorts of statistics about the percentages of B vitamins that were lost when you poured the cooking water down the drain.
Since then I have cooked with very little water. I use steel pans with good lids. I steam whenever possible. Never would I boil carrots, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, or parsnips. Sometimes instead of steaming I sautÃ© in a skillet with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of oil. That is how I cook yellow squash, zucchini, and frozen spinach.
However some vegetables have to be cooked in water. In that case my goal is to have enough water to get the cooking process started, but very little left in the pan by the time the vegetables are done. Today I started my collard greens with a cup of water. Before they were done most of the water had evaporated so I added another cup. They are almost tender now, and there is less than a half-inch of water left in the bottom of the pot.
Admittedly cooking this way means I have to pay attention. I steamed parsnips a couple of weeks ago, got distracted, and nearly ruined them. I had put about an inch and a half of water in the pan so that the parsnips were well above the water line. By the time I heard an ominous hissing sound, all of the water was gone and the bottom of the pan was scorched. I ate that batch of parsnips myself. They were not so spoiled that I would throw them away, but I wouldn't ask the family to eat them.
Fortunately I don't do that very often. I have a timer with a repeater function by my stove. I often set it for 3 or 4 minutes, just to remind me to check the progress of my vegetables.
My bottom line advice: drink lots of water, but cook with very little.