This section is from the book "Economical Cookery", by Marion Harris Neil. Also available from Amazon: Economical Cookery (1918).
"The common growth of Mother Earth suffices me."
The cooking of vegetables is often undertaken with confidence by the most amateur and ignorant of cooks, because of a mistaken idea that "any one can cook vegetables." If those words were altered to "any one with care and a little knowledge can cook vegetables," they would be true enough, as vegetables are really not difficult to cook, provided that a few rules are strictly adhered to. These rules are well worth learning, as there are few things more often spoiled by careless cooking and serving.
Vegetables may be divided into two principal classes:
1. Root vegetables, or those that grow below the ground; this class may include those which are not roots in the botanical sense, such as the potato, the onion, and the leek;
2. Green vegetables, or those that grow above the ground; this class includes those which are not actually green - leafy vegetables, such as marrow, beans, or peas.
As a class, root vegetables are more nutritious, satisfying and starchy than green vegetables; they generally contain starch, the potato being the richest in this; or sugar, of which beets and carrots contain the largest proportion. They may be cooked and served as a separate vegetable, but a good many of them, especially onions, shallots, carrots, and turnips, are used as flavoring agents and added to such dishes as soups or stews.
Scrub root vegetables well to remove earth and dirt. If young and thin skinned, scrape well; if older or with thick skins, peel. Place in water after peeling, until ready to be cooked, to keep a good color. Onions and leeks are exceptions; they must not be soaked in water, as some of their valuable oil is lost, but they should be covered and kept from the air. All root vegetables, except old potatoes, are cooked in boiling salted water in a covered saucepan, till tender. The mature starch grains in old potatoes are rendered softer if they are placed in just sufficient cold salted water to cover them, brought slowly to the boil, and then cooked gently till floury and unbroken. After draining, potatoes should be placed on the side of the fire in a saucepan with the lid tilted, to steam and dry.
Green vegetables, with the exception of the pulses (peas, beans, lentils, etc.), are not so nourishing as root vegetables; their value lies in the fact that they contain valuable blood-purifying salts, and that the cellulose which forms their bulk is a preventive of constipation.
Spinach and cabbage are especially rich in these salts. Peas, beans, and lentils are more nourishing than other green vegetables, because they contain a higher proportion of flesh-forming food.
Green vegetables should be prepared according to the kind of vegetable.
Spinach should be picked over, the stem and back rib of each leaf removed, and then thoroughly washed in several waters. It is the only vegetable that is not cooked in plenty of water; it requires only a tablespoon of water at the bottom of the pan, which, with the water that clings to the leaves, is sufficient to cook it in, as so much comes out of the spinach during cooking Spinach should be thoroughly drained, chopped, or rubbed through a sieve, and then served with a garnish of hard-cooked eggs. Almost all green vegetables are cooked fast in plenty of boiling salted water, in a large uncovered saucepan till tender-Drain the water thoroughly from green vegetables; cabbage and other greens should be pressed in a colander with a saucer to squeeze away all moisture. Peas may be tossed in melted butter after draining. Cauliflower is served very hot with a white-coating sauce.