Blanching is a simple way to cook vegetables. After they are blanched they can be dressed with sauce or dips, used in salads, stir-fries, etc.
It is important that the vegetables are cooked in very hot water so that they cook quickly. When the vegetables are first put into the boiling water, it causes a temperature drop; if blanching lots of vegetables do it in small batches so that the water will quickly return to a boil and allow the water to return to a boil before adding the next batch. Cook only one type of vegetables at a time, since different types cook at different rates. A pasta basket, slotted spoon, spider, or tongs makes blanching multiple items easier because it allows you to re-use the same pot of boiling water. An ice batch or cold water rinse stops the cooking and helps to preserve the vegetable’s vibrant colors.
- vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, green peas, or fava beans, prepared or cut according to the vegetable type (see notes below)
- kosher salt to make salted water for blanching
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil on high (see here for information how how heavily water should be salted for blanching).
Make sure that the water is at a full boil. Add vegetables and cook until they are just barely cooked through but still crunchy. Immediately remove the vegetables with a large slotted spoon or use a colander to drain. Immediately plunge the vegetables into the ice water or rinse with cold water until the vegetables are cool to stop the cooking and keep the colors vibrant. Turn the vegetables around in the ice water batch or under cold water to make sure all of them are cooled quickly.
Blanching Preparation Notes for Specific Vegetables:
- Asparagus: Before blanching, cut off the the fibrous ends of the asparagus. The asparagus can be left in long stacks or cut into smaller pieces. If the asparagus is thick, you can peel the bottom inch and half of skin to remove any stringiness. Blanch for about 1 minute for thick asparagus even less for thin asparagus.
- Spinach: Since spinach usually has a lot of dirt on it, it should be immersed in a sinkful of water and let to soak for a minute or two. Scoop the rinsed spinach out of the water, and then drain away the water and dirt in the sink. Blanch for only long enough to drop the spinach in boiling water and stir to immerse the spinach. Drain immediately. This should take less than 30 seconds.
- Green Peas: Remove the shells from the peas. Discard (or compost) the shells. Blanch the peas for 1 minute, drain, and put the peas in a bowl of lukewarm water (not cold or ice water) to prevent them from wrinkling.
- Fava Beans: Remove the shells from the fava beans. Discard (or compost) the shells. Fava beans have a second skin on the beans which must be removed by blanching. Blanch for 3 minutes, or until the skin on many of the beans splits. Rinse the fava beans with cold water or soak in an ice batch until the beans are also cold. Drain the beans, and then pop each bean out of its skin. Discard (or compost) the second skin. Note: Shelling and deskinning fava beans can be time consuming; don’t do this on a night when you are in a hurry.