Cooking vegetables to last a week doesn't mean that you must have every meal planned -- it gives you opportunities make mealtime choices from the bounty in your fridge. Whether you subscribe to a Community Supported Agricultural program, or CSA, where a box of fresh produce arrives on your doorstep every week, or if you just want a head start to a busy week by cooking a batch of vegetables on the weekend, the cooking ahead process saves you time and energy.
Before cooking vegetables, it's important to wash them thoroughly to remove any lingering pesticides and bacteria. Begin by cutting off bruised or stale sections. Then rinse each vegetable under the tap and soak leafy vegetables in a large bowl of water that you change after washing each item. Scrub potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and beets. Dry all the vegetables and refrigerate them if you don't plan to cook within two hours of washing.
Into the Oven
Roasting vegetables concentrates the flavors in vegetables, adds a slightly sweet caramelization of sugars and allows you to cook a large quantity at once. Simply cut vegetables into similar-sized pieces, toss them with some oil, salt, pepper or your favorite seasonings and place them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. You can cook carrots, cauliflower, onions, peppers and eggplant using this method as well as a variety of other vegetables.
Use Boiling Water
Blanching vegetables in a very large pot of boiling water and then shocking them in a large bowl of ice water allows vegetables, such as snow peas, broccoli, asparagus and green beans, to retain their bright colors, their texture and much of their nutrition. The vegetables cook until just tender and stop cooking quickly when the ice water draws residual heat out of them. Use plenty of water, salt it well and boil cut vegetables for only two to four minutes.
Time for Dinner
Cooked vegetables stay safe from harmful bacteria in your refrigerator for up to four days. You can make sauces, such as pesto with spinach or red peppers, and freeze them to use later in the week for pasta. Blanched vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans, retain their flavor and texture when frozen. Use roasted vegetables first, tossed into salads or processed into cream soups, then use blanched vegetables in stir-fries or frittatas, and finally, use frozen vegetables.
- Foodsafety.gov: Chill
- The New York Times: A Recipe for Simplifying Life: Ditch All the Recipes
- The Science of Good Cooking; Editors of America's Test Kitchen
- Foodsafety.gov: Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer
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