VEGETABLES are prepared for the table in several ways, but the most common method of cooking them is in boiling water or in the related method of steaming. On the whole, it may be said that the simpler methods of preparing are to be preferred, in the majority of cases bringing the food to its most digestible form.
The changes that take place in the cooking of vegetables are briefly these: The cellular tissue is softened and loosened; the nitrogenous substances are coagulated; the starch granules absorb moisture, swell and burst; and the flavor is developed. The food is rendered more digestible and in most cases more palatable. Over-cooking, however, changes and toughens the texture of vegetable foods, destroys the coloring matter and injures the flavor.
All vegetables should be thoroughly cleansed before being put on to cook, and if for any reason a green vegetable has lost its crispness or firmness it should be soaked in very cold water until it has regained freshness. Vegetables that form in heads, such as cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, should be soaked, heads down, in salted cold water to which a few teaspoons of .vinegar may be added. If there are any worms in the vegetables they will crawl out.
To secure the best results all vegetables except the dried legumes must be put in boiling water and the water must be brought to a boil again as soon as possible after the vegetables have been added. Herbaceous vegetables should boil rapidly all the time; but with tubers, roots, cauliflower, etc., the ebullition should not be so violent as to break the vegetables. Green lima beans and peas when removed from the pods must be cooked gently. If beans or peas are a little old, a pinch of baking soda added to the water in which they are boiled will make them more tender.
The best seasoning for most vegetables is salt and butter. Vegetables that are drained when partly done and then cooked with butter and seasoning for a few minutes are usually more palatable than those which are cooked the entire time in a large amount of clear water and seasoned afterward.
Remove the wilted or yellow leaves from the sprouts; cut the stock close to the heads, and soak in salted cold water for an hour or more. Drain well and empty them into boiling salted water, allowing one teaspoon of salt to two quarts of water. Boil rapidly for fifteen or twenty minutes, according to the size of the heads; when done, turn into a colander and pour cold water over the heads. Reheat in butter and seasoning or in cream sauce.
Remove all the old or tough leaves; wash the kale thoroughly and drain. Put it into boiling water to which has been added salt in the proportion of one half tablespoon to two quarts of water. Boil rapidly, uncovered, until the vegetable is tender; pour off the water; chop the kale very fine; return it to the kettle with one tablespoon of butter and two of meat stock or water to every pint of the minced vegetable. Add more salt if necessary; cook for ten minutes and serve at once. The entire time for cooking varies from thirty to fifty minutes.