Monday, May 14, 2012

So You Think You Can Steam Vegetables?


There are two things steamed vegetables need to contend with. First, there’s the misconception that they’re banal and tasteless. Second, not everyone knows how to properly steam vegetables thus perpetuating the humdrum reputation. I learned with the So You Think You Can Hard Boil Egg post's popularity that it’s dangerous to assume aptitude when it comes to cooking. Since we’re often alone, when cooking, it’s easy to do things in an inefficient or incorrect way for years. Every time I take a cooking class I realize this. So if you’re ending up with tasteless mush, you may be over steaming or under seasoning. Don't jump ship, the benefits of steaming vegetables are higher nutrient retention than many other cooking methods and a very versatile product.

Equipment
I steam my vegetables in an All Clad steamer basket with a perforated bottom and lid.
realize that the lid isn't shown,  my lid is steel clear would be better
You can also use a bamboo steamer, here the vegetables are stacked. It's sort of the cooking equivalent of apartment living. I would suggest lining these baskets with parchment to avoid sticking.
Another option is the collapsible basket, they key here is to make sure the vegetables are above the water level and that the basket can be easily removed from the pot.

And you can steam in a pan with very little water, I do this with asparagus.
Despite my appliance addiction (Vitamix, juicer, Nespresso) I don’t see the need for a stand-alone steamed and while it’s also possible to microwave steam but I haven’t experimented with that method
Liquid
Fill the pot with one to two inches of water. You don’t want the water to evaporate while steaming and burn your pot (good to check if steaming longer-cooking veggies). I start with filtered tap water. It's fun to experiment adding herbs such as thyme, rosemary to the water or throw in a chunk of peeled ginger, pickle juice, wine, citrus and citrus zest though not necessarily all at once. Let the water come to a boil at medium high heat before starting to steam the vegetables.
  
Vegetables
Fill the steamer with vegetables, you can stack even in a single basket but don’t over pack it.   Spring vegetables are so good right now you don’t need to sauté or roast them, steaming is perfect
Artichokes take 30 minutes or a few more.  Wash, slice off the top half-inch and use a kitchen scissors to snip any sharp points on the outer leaves.
Carrots, again I  am not a fan of baby carrots  12 minutes
Broccoli 5 to 7 minutes, for some reason cauliflower a drop longer
Sweet potatoes 7 minutes
String beans and sugar snap peas are pretty quick and take less than 5 minutes
Steam greens kale takes 5 to 7 minutes, softer greens like spinach are done in a few minutes.
If steaming more than 1 vegetable add carrots or artichokes or the ones that take longer first and quicker cookers later.

Vegetables are cooked when they are fork tender. Sprinkle vegetables with Himalayan salt  and if you’re eating right away toss with coconut oil, a sliver of pastured butter or chili oil. Otherwise, store extra vegetables and use in omelets, grain dishes, salads, purees or soups. Firmer vegetables like broccoli and snap peas are great for a snack.  With so many foods out there that are processed or  “too exciting”, sometimes basic, unadulterated ingredients are best. It's sort of the food equivalent of the white button down shirt. Even if you haven't worn a white button down in a while, it's always good to own one.
Do you steam vegetables at home? What method do you use? What are your favorite vegetables to steam? Ever tried an artichoke? Delicious.

24 comments:

  1. Gina (Candid RD)May 14, 2012 at 3:55 AM

    Steaming vegetables is my LIFE!  Seriously, I have  three of those collapsible baskets!  And..I have one of the stand-alone baskets that I've only used once (I'll use it more when I have kids and have to make a LOT of food).  Steaming is my favorite cooking method EVER, and according to your post I do it right, YEAH!

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  2. Gina, I started steaming more when my kids were younger/trying new foods. Though they are more adventurous now I feel there's often no need for an overly adorned vegetable if veggies are fresh and flavorful and not "killed". I have 2 steamer baskets and sometimes have them going at same time too. 

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  3. I not only use my steamer for vegetables, but I also use it to heat up left overs. Pasta and grilled chicken mostly. It heats the items thoroughly and maintains moisture.

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  4. I must admit, I've always been more of a blancher than steamer. I should really use my basket more. I love artichokes, so delicious,meaty and healthy. It's 8am but would totally have one right now.

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  5. claire, that's sort of genius. I can see warming in the steamer as the kind of tip that changes my life. Taste of UWS sat...?

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  6. If you weren't in Canada I would offer up my artichoke, the only problem with my steamer is that I can only fit 2 artichokes. With the price of organic arties, this may not be a bad thing.

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  7. I'm not a fan of the microwave. I only use mine to sanitize my dish sponge and store my bread. I started using the steamer insert to heat up baby food (chopped obviously not pureed) and have continued. Sadly we'll be away for Taste of the UWS - Enjoy! 

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  8. Great post! I love steaming veggies. They cook so quickly. I frequently steam broccoli or broccolini and toss with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Add a squeeze of lemon and they're fresh-tasting and delicious. I also steam sweet potato cubes for a sweet potato and quinoa salad and always steam cauliflower before pureeing it.  

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  9. this is making me feel so warm and fuzzy, steamers unite! I'm with you on everything but the broccolini. Everyone loves, I feel sort of muddy broccoli. Maybe I'm oversteaming :)

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  10. I adore steamed veg!  So good.  Chili oil sounds AMAZING!  

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  11. Clearly I need to use my steamer more!  I have the same All-Clad basket you do, but I use my glass lid with it.  And I LOVE artichokes!  Yum yum yum.

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  12. I like taking plain things and then adding heat with chili oil, hot peppers, ginger etc.

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  13. the basket is great, use it at least 1/week, you'll be happy. And please tell me today's post made you feel good #guilt.

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  14. I have a silicone steamer I use (hopefully you won't tell me that's bad...) http://www.wayfair.com/ChefN-Sleekstor%99-VeggiSteam-8.5-Silicone-Steamer-Arugula-102-024-011-EFN1018.html?refid=FR49-EFN1018

    I love steaming broccoli - it's my dinner side of choice!

    What a good tip to reheat food this way since we don't have a microwave in our apt!

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  15. I'm a big fan of simple steamed veggies, but I love your idea to add some fresh herbs or citrus rind to the water.  Steamed sweet potatoes?  Never tried it.  Do you cut them in to chunks before steaming?  Oh, and a little chili oil on top sounds divine!

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  16.  I love all of your posts!  As always, this was great.  You didn't make me feel bad, those crazy "I have to work out 10 times a day" ladies made me feel bad.  Also made me push my work out a little more, so everyone wins.

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  17. I don't think I can do anything. Really. Especially in the kitchen. And funny enough, I gave away my steamer last week...I mean, it had been sitting in my laundry room for the better part of 10 years!! 

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  18. I luuuuuurve my bamboo steamer.  I wish it were just a bit bigger, though.  I only steam green things, for some reason: broccoli, kale, beans, asparagus.

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  19. I once was a nonsteam lover - it truly sounds like they would be bland, right? Boy, was I wrong. I have found that veggies pack a lot more flavor when steamed, no seasoning necessary (not all the time, anyway). 

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  20. I love it a steaming convert. And if you think they're good plain a little good salt goes a long way. Thanks for commenting.

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  21. Ooh a member of the bamboo fan club speaks up. And what's wrong with orange or white vegetables Stephanie, are you biased?

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  22. you must retrieve it, that makes me sad. I really think this may be your kitchen niche.

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  23. Yes and pickle juice is fun too (I think I just like a use for the leftover juice well other than cocktails). I love steamed sweet potatoes when using in salads with quinoa or black beans. A little heat is good.

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  24. Einat I would actually think safe since the silicone baking sheet liners are fine/looked into those. And use Claire's tip reheat in steamer too.

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