Cookbook Profile

Asparagus Tips and Other Pointers

Serve white and green asparagus together. Apart from the visual impact, the contrast in taste between the mild, delicate white spears and the hearty, aromatic green spears is a delight for the palate.

The avocado was first cultivated in Central America. Its name comes from the Aztec word ahuacate, "butter of the forest." Though botanically a fruit, it is usually prepared as a vegetable. To speed up ripening, wrap an avocado in newspaper and store it with an apple or a banana. To prevent a peeled avocado from turning brown, brush it with a little lemon or lime juice just after peeling.

Bell peppers are thought to have the highest vitamin C content of any fruit or vegetable. Depending on ripeness, they can contain from 150 mg. (green peppers) to 300 mg. (red peppers) of vitamin C per 100 grams.

Cook beets and Jerusalem artichokes before peeling them to prevent them from losing their juice.

To preserve the color, texture and flavor of broccoli and other green vegetables, cook uncovered. With this method, the acids contained in the vegetables are driven off with the steam in the first 6-8 minutes of cooking. Otherwise, they react with the chlorophyll, causing the vegetables to turn gray.

Sliced or diced root vegetables such as carrots should be brought to a boil in as little water as possible and cooked over a low heat. In this way, both flavor and nutrients are preserved.

Eggplant seeds should always be white. Seeds that have turned brown indicate over-ripeness or lack of freshness.

The lentil, which has been grown in Egypt for between 8,000 and 10,000 years, is one of the oldest cultivated plants.

Cook potatoes in their skins to retain nutrients.

White, red and Savoy cabbages are well suited to braising, as this makes them very tender and digestible.

Zucchini, which belongs to the pumpkin family (zucchini is the Italian word for "little pumpkins"), is firmer than a cucumber because it contains less water. Zucchini is sensitive to the ethylene given off by fruit and tomatoes, so it is best stored separately.

Always clean vegetables whole rather than after cutting them up, otherwise many vitamins and minerals will end up down the drain. Never leave trimmed or sliced vegetables soaking in water or their minerals will leach out. It is best to prepare all vegetables just before use. If it is necessary to store prepared vegetables, sprinkle them with a little vinegar or lemon juice, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or store in a cool, dark place. This slows down the breakdown of vitamin C.


The Vegetable Bible
By Christian Teubner, Hans-Georg Levin, Elisabeth Lange, Andreas Miessmer
Penguin Studio
Publication Date: November 1998
Hardcover, $32.95
256 pages, 1,000 plus full-color photographs
ISBN: 0-670-88130-9
Reprinted by permission.


The Vegetable Bible



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This page created March 1999