Last year, I attended a cooking demonstration where the presenting chef prepared and served some wonderful vegetables. They were unnaturally bright, perfectly crispy, and unimaginably flavorful. These vegetables were definitely not yo momma’s veggie tray! Thankfully, he let us in on the secrets to replicating these crave-able veggies at home.
The vegetables were BLANCHED! We all couldn’t believe it since they still looked and felt raw – the refreshing crunch of the carrot was still very much intact. But, the process of blanching did a few things to dress up the produce. First, it gave the vegetables a bright, fresh color. The carrots were super orange and the broccoli was a vivid green. The second thing it did was enhance the flavor, which brings me to the second secret.
Season the boiling water AND the ice water! This chef recommended using salt, pepper, a spice, and an herb to flavor the water. Specifically, he used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sprigs of fresh thyme. It was an absolutely delightful blend of flavors but you can experiment with a variety of seasonings if you keep his formula in mind. (If you don’t feel comfortable enough in the kitchen to experiment with different flavors, I highly recommend this book to give you tried and true blends of flavors.) I have enjoyed blanching with fresh dill.
The last secret is pretty simple. When you blanch a bunch of different vegetables at once, start with the lightest color vegetable and work your way to the darkest one. For example, start with cauliflower, then carrots, then broccoli and green beans, then beets. If you don’t you may end up with a discolored platter!
Here’s a few vegetables for your crudité platter that will blanch well:
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Summer Squash
When in doubt, it’s better to undercook rather than overcook the vegetables or you’ll end up with a mushy platter.
And here’s a few more vegetables to add that don’t need any preparation:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Bell peppers
And don’t forget to choose a dip to serve with your platter:
- Baba ganoush
If you’ve never blanched vegetables before, it’s a lot less intimidating than it sounds. Basically, you just bring a pot of water to a boil on the stovetop. Add about a tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon of water. Add your other seasonings to taste. Then, get a bowl of ice water and season it as well. If you don’t want to add seasoning to the ice water, make sure you at least add salt. Then prepare your vegetables and add them to the boiling water. Cook for the specified amount of time, then quickly transfer them with tongs or a slotted spoon to the ice water bath. Allow them to cool completely in the bath for several minutes before spreading them on paper towel to absorb any excess water. Continue the process with your other vegetables, working from the lightest colored ones to the darkest until you’re done. That’s it! You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to two days until you’re ready to serve.