What is healthy cooking? Our daily cooking should provide us with all the nutritions we need. At the same time it is evenly important that our daily cooking provides us with fun and joy of eating the prepared food. Reading through many blogs, healthy cooking mainly focuses on the first part by defining what we should avoid for a healthy living, e.g. avoid carbs, avoid saturated fats, avoid sugar, avoid too much of abc. Many of those discussions are almost religiously defining what we should eat. I’m starting a series of blog posts talking about various different aspects of healthy cooking. I’m starting off with preparing vegetables.
Have you ever had those bland and oversoft vegetables on your plate? I guess a lot of things went wrong here and you have consumed empty cellulose without any nutrients.
First we need to start with a bit of science. Osmosis is the movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane (like the walls of cells) into a region of higher solute concentration. What does this mean for cooking vegetables? For example, blanching vegetables in under-salted water will lead to watery and unpleasant vegetables. Blanched vegetables in a perfectly salted water will be most delicious and flavorful. The difference in both situations is the different salt level between the water and the vegetables. Osmosis is responsible for letting water into the cells of the vegetables if the salt level of the water is lower than the one of the vegetables. In the book “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” Samira Nosrat writes, the water for blanching needs to be as salty as the sea, at last as we remember it. You should always try the water you use for cooking your vegetables (the same applies for pasta as well).
Another important bit of science is the Millard Reaction. The Millard Reaction is the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor. In other words, the Millard Reaction makes food delicious. You can see its effects through browning with high temperatures. Think of those perfectly grilled vegetables you had a few weeks ago with sprinkled high quality olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and sea salt.
In “Part 2”, I will describe different ways of preparing vegetables in a healthy and delicious way.