This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
Since most vegetables are eaten largely for the sake of the salts dissolved in their juices, it is a great mistake to think only about getting them soft, and not about saving these juices. Vegetables cooked in water lose a considerable quantity, not of salts alone, but of other foodstuffs, especially starch and sugar. It is better, therefore, to steam vegetables than to boil them, and to bake such as are tender enough to be good baked. Tasteless, dull-colored peas have lost food value as well as flavor and color. Vegetables when cooked right look and taste good. The directions for cooking vegetables given in the table on pp. 248-251 are based upon the following general rules: -
1. Cook vegetables whole when practicable. When not practicable, cut them into as large pieces as are convenient. If the cooking water is to be served with the vegetable,
2. Use only as much water as is necessary to cover the vegetable. For small or cut-up vegetables that can be stirred, use just enough to keep them from burning, adding more as this cooks away.
4. For vegetables cooked whole or in large pieces, keep the water boiling that they may cook in the shortest possible time. Peas, beans, and any vegetables served in the cooking water are better simmered.
5. Green vegetables keep their color better if cooked uncovered. The reason for this is not known. Cook onions and cabbage uncovered; their odor is less noticeable when allowed to pass off continually than when escaping occasionally in bursts of steam.
6. The time required to cook any given vegetable depends upon its size, age, and freshness. Old beets may be so woody that they cannot be cooked tender. Dried or wilted vegetables cook more quickly if first soaked in cold water.
Use two teaspoonfuls of salt to one quart of water in which large vegetables are to be boiled. To one pint of small, cooked vegetables, - beans, peas, onions, etc., - or to one pint of mashed or cubed turnips, potatoes, etc., use two tablespoonfuls of butter, one-half teaspoonful of salt, and one-eighth teaspoonful of white pepper.
Many kinds of cooked vegetables may be scalloped; potatoes, onions, cabbage, and cauliflower are excellent so prepared.
For scalloping, cut potatoes into cubes, quarter or tear apart onions, separate the flowerets of cauliflower. Cabbage leaves, if not separated before cooking, must be pulled apart. Season the vegetable as directed above, put it into a baking-dish, pour over it thin White Sauce, allowing one cupful and a half of sauce to each pint of vegetables. Cover with buttered crumbs, and bake till the crumbs are brown.
Butter, 2 tb. Flour, 1 1/2 tb.
Milk, 1 c.
Salt, 2/3 t., or more.
Pepper, 1/8 t.
Celery. Use only the inner stalks. Wash these, scraping them if not perfectly white, cut off all but a little of the tops, and soak in cold water till crisp. Serve them laid in a glass dish. Cucumbers. The seeds and coarse fibres of cucumbers make them one of the most indigestible of foods. Soaking in salt water wilts them, increasing their indigestibility. Pare them, cut thick slices from the ends to remove medicinal salts, and slice thin. Radishes. Wash and cut off the tops, make cuts across the tops of the roots through the skin, and turn this back in points. Tomatoes. Peel and slice in half-inch slices. (See Preparation of Tomatoes in table, p. 251.) Serve very cold.