Vegetable

Faux-Blanching Is the Cooking Technique We Didn't Know We Needed

August 22, 2020
Photo by Alpha Smoot

It all started the first time I was lured by a tri-color bag of string beans at a farmers market—the purple, green, and yellow electric against each other.

I brought them home so pumped to make a salad. I cleaned each one, getting more and more excited as each color passed through my fingers. Then I blanched them and what had been neon purple turned to grey-green. I was pissed off in a way that is, admittedly, unreasonable.

So, next time, I tried another approach: Determined to make a salad with all three colors intact, I blanched the green and yellow beans as normal, which is to say, simmered in a pot of heavily salted water until they are bright in color but still a touch crunchy (about five minutes). But instead of adding the purple beans to the pot, I put them in the bottom of the colander and poured the boiling water and other beans on top. My hope was that this would take the beans out of their raw state, but keep their color.

Worked like a charm.

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Top Comment:
“Slowly pour the boiling water over the veg with one hand while gently moving the spinach around with long tongs held in the other so the hot water reaches the now compacting layers. Let it settle a bit to let the heat do the wilting work, then run some cold water from the tap to cool it down. Let it drain a few minutes then squeezing handfuls of the spinach, transfer to a container. Not only does this reduce the bulk to manageable size, it also removes any excess tannin (I think that’s what’s the culprit) from the spinach. ”
— Leslee P.
Comment

Now I put this technique toward any number of vegetables, even green green beans when I want them to stay crunchy, say like for a Niçoise salad. Other good candidates also include snap peas (whole), asparagus (whole or chopped), fennel (thinly sliced), even cauliflower or broccoli (cut into florets). In general, any vegetable that you would normally steam or poach should do pretty well faux-blanched. Remember that the smaller the cut of the vegetable, the more it will soften when the hot water is poured over.

Admittedly, I only do this if I’m already boiling something else—like baby potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, pasta, or grains. If you’re not already putting a pot on to boil, you can heat water in a kettle and pour that over the veg. Just add the salt later. I have only done this once, in a hotel room, when I was so tired of eating out that I bought vegetables at a beautiful market, then jimmy-rigged a meal out of what I could find in the room.

If I’m at home, in a less desperate state, I’ll use faux-blanching as an excuse to cook some extra grains, like bulgur or buckwheat, to eat later in the week. You can catch the grain with a sieve, to keep the grains and vegetables separate, or just mix them and make a very delicious salad—options galore.


How to Faux-Blanch

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook something in it—vegetables, beans, grains, pasta, really whatever you want.
  2. When that ingredient is done boiling, lay the vegetable to be faux-blanched in the colander—doesn’t have to be in a single layer though the more densely packed, the less evenly they will cook. (See vegetable suggestions above.)
  3. Pour the boiling water over the vegetable and give it a second to drain away.
  4. Remove from the colander and taste. If it isn’t cooked enough you can bring additional water to a boil and repeat (but I have never done this).
  5. Use the vegetable as you would a true-blanched item—like in a grain-based, vegetable-filled salad or on a not-quite-raw crudite platter. (Once the vegetables are faux-blanched, they store well in the fridge for at least a few days. I usually let them dry a bit before putting them in the fridge just to keep free of excess moisture.)

Vegetable-Forward Recipes From Abra

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Abra Berens is a chef, author, and former vegetable farmer. She started cooking at Zingerman's Deli, trained at Ballymaloe in Cork, Ireland, and now helms the kitchens at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, MI and Farm Club in Traverse City, MI. Her first cookbook, Ruffage: a practical guide to vegetables is out now. Her second book, Grist: a practical guide to grains and legumes is due Fall 2021.

12 Comments

Vic Y. September 11, 2020
Been cooking for 65 years. Faux blanching is a good name for this but it's not close to being even similar to blanching results. This is more of a hot water shock to stabilize the beans for raw salads. Blanching is a quick partial cooking for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.
 
Nancy H. August 30, 2020
Why not just use the microwave. For one pound: Dampen some paper towel roll up 1/2 pound of beans in it and microwave for about 1minute 30 seconds. Repeat with other 1/2 pound. All done. Feel free to shock in cold water. Save those paper towels for wiping up, etc.

BTW it's kind of fun to cook with paper towel.
 
Terry N. August 30, 2020
My little patio garden produces enough okra to provide me with a steady supply for pickling. After harvesting, I put the okra in a strainer and hold them under the water from my instant hot water dispenser. After that they go into my pickle jar in the fridge, ready for snacking. I didn't know I was faux blanching :0)
 
patricia G. August 30, 2020
I pour boiling water over certain vegetables, especially root vegetables, as a prequel to roasting. Let them drain, then toss with oil and seasonings on a baking tray/sheet pan before roasting in a hot oven. A cushion against desiccation..
 
Peter R. August 30, 2020
I blanche things by boiling excess water, then adding vegetable and (usually) once boiling starts count a minute or two depending on vegetable. Then, collander drain and rinse in cool water to control cooking (it's still hot inside). I then toss in a small amount of salty water and serve (can microwave if needed hot) or chill. This approach gives you several points to avoid overcooking a delicate vegetable and to get it "just right" for your taste. This worked perfectly with week-old store bought green beans for me last night. Unless they're tough, I cook leafy greens by sauteing or stir frying. Less is more.
 
Leslee P. August 25, 2020
This is the best way to deal with the huge quantities of spinach you need for Even moderate portions. Pile up as much spinach as you can fit in a colander in the sink. Fill a kettle with HOT (speeds things up) tap water and bring to boil. Slowly pour the boiling water over the veg with one hand while gently moving the spinach around with long tongs held in the other so the hot water reaches the now compacting layers. Let it settle a bit to let the heat do the wilting work, then run some cold water from the tap to cool it down. Let it drain a few minutes then squeezing handfuls of the spinach, transfer to a container. Not only does this reduce the bulk to manageable size, it also removes any excess tannin (I think that’s what’s the culprit) from the spinach.
 
Corj August 23, 2020
I do this all the time. Especially great with snappy snow peas and sugar snap beans. Just did a batch of pesto where I faux blanched basil by pouring boiling from the kettle water over cleaned leaves placed in colander. Works perfectly fine.
 
nowarmsoda August 22, 2020
Why not just put the beans in the hot water after it is off heat for like 20s?
 
Jai August 25, 2020
I think the post was made because she found a way to blanche without losing the color of her purple beans. Plus, she suggested a way to reuse boiled water from other vegetables already cooked by boiling method. Just saying...
 
Dogolaca August 22, 2020
Why not microwave for thirty seconds?
 
Jai August 25, 2020
Maybe she doesn't have a microwave or doesn't like to use a microwave.....just saying.
 
Nancy H. August 30, 2020
Maybe it's a comment still useful to the millions who own a microwave. BTW microwaves preserve more nutrients and will keep beans, sugar snaps and such bright green ..... just sayin'