Frozen vegetables: A quarantine kitchen’s unexpected heroes
Despite the bad rap they’ve developed among some home cooks, “frozen vegetables are a godsend, really,” said Joe Yonan in The Washington Post. At times like these, when we’re all trying to minimize our visits to the supermarket, it’s smart to stock up on things that will last, and frozen vegetables can be counted on to deliver nutritional value that matches what you’d find in the produce section. But you do have to prepare them the right way.
So skip steaming or boiling them, which will only produce mushy results. Instead, roast them at high heat until the edges crisp. I set a pan in the oven and preheat them together to 450 degrees. I toss frozen broccoli florets in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then pop them in the hot pan. The florets should still be fully frozen; “when they hit the pan, the water melts and evaporates in a flash, without time for it to get them soggy.” The recipe below uses that method for a simple pasta salad that’s also highly adaptable. If you don’t have frozen broccoli on hand, substitute frozen Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or peas.
Another trick for getting the best out of frozen vegetables is to not cook them at all, said Grace Elkus in TheKitchn.com. They’ve been flash frozen after being cooked just to the point that locks in maximum nutrition, flavor, and texture, so you should eat them “as is” when possible. Simply thaw frozen corn before tossing it in a salad, for example, or blend thawed frozen peas right into a pesto. When making a pasta salad, you can drop frozen vegetables into the bottom of the bowl before adding the warm pasta. Its heat will thaw the vegetables.
A final surprise is how frozen pearl onions respond to high heat, said David Klein in Chowhound.com. They’re good when sautéed in a skillet, but otherworldly when thrown into an air fryer. Following the lead of Urvashi Pitre at TwoSleevers.com, we toss them in equal parts olive oil, sweet balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and rosemary, then cook them at 400 in the fryer for 18 to 20 minutes. They emerge crisp all around and “pack a wallop when it comes to flavor.”
Recipe of the week
Pasta salad with crispy broccoli
Heat oven to 450 with a roasting pan on the middle rack. Coat 1 lb of frozen broccoli florets with 1 tbsp olive oil plus ¾ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper, then roast for 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook ½ lb whole wheat fusilli or other short pasta until al dente. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tbsp lemon zest, 2 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp red pepper flakes. Drain the pasta, add it to the oil mixture, and stir to combine. Add 1 cup crumbled feta and ½ cup coarsely chopped roasted unsalted almonds. Serves 4. ■