Blanching vegetables is a common and important step in many recipes. In some, the goal of blanching is to tame bitter greens, in others it's strictly to par-cook the vegetables (helpful in stir-fries), and it usually ensures that vegetables retain their vibrant colours better. Oh yeah, it also helps French fries fry up crispy and golden!
Use it too as a time-saving technique if you want to get a head start on cooking. Simply blanch the veggies now and finish them off later. Or if you're planning on freezing part of your garden harvest for the winter months, a quick blanch will slow down the deterioration that happens even in the freezer.
Blanching is also helpful for removing the skin from a large amount of juicier fruits, including tomatoes. Just insert a small cross at the bottom and blanch for 10-15 seconds for thin-skinned fruit and 2 minutes for thick-skinned citrus fruits. Once cooled, grasp a flap of skin where you've cut the cross and peel with your fingers.
While blanching times vary with each recipe, the basic idea is to parboil the vegetables briefly until they're tender-crisp. This is done by submerging them in boiling water and closing the lid to keep the heat high. Start timing once the water comes back to a boil (if the temperature dropped when the vegetables were added) and cook for as long as the recipe calls for, usually somewhere between 20 seconds to a couple of minutes.
Then, to stop the vegetables from cooking with residual heat, you want to "shock" them: use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer them to an ice bath (a bowl of water filled with ice cubes), or place them in a strainer in the sink and run cold tap water over them.
Drain them once they've cooled down, which should take roughly the same time as the cooking time. Once cool, pat them dry with a paper towel or a clean dish towel to remove excess water.
Try blanching vegetables in any of these recipes to see what an important technique it is.
Asparagus Mushroom Stir-Fry
Asparagus Gruyere Tart
Orecchiette with Broccoli and Garlic
Broccoli and Cheddar White Bean Spread With Pita Wedges and Crudites
Easy Pita Pizzas
Crisp French Fries with Mustard Mayonnaise
Herbed Crab Dip
Roasted Fennel and Potatoes