We wait all winter for the first signs of life to pop up at our green markets and farm stands. After a winter of root vegetables and cabbage, the thought of leafy green things is enough to make us weep. But with tiny thorns, spikes, pods, and copious amounts of dirt, some of our favorite vegetables are actually kind of jerks. Don’t let the veggies boss you around. Here are our favorite tricks for cleaning and prepping springtime’s finest.
Covered in terrifying spikes, fresh artichokes might as well be wearing a “do not touch” sign. But they’re also excellent steamed, boiled, roasted, or grilled, so it’s worth taming their wild side at least once or twice while they’re in season.The tips of their tough exterior leaves must be cut down to a flat top, but rather than get all up in there with a paring knife and risk life and limb (or at least a poke or two), use sharp kitchen shears. You’ll keep your fingers away from the most dangerous portions. Once you’ve cut away the most fibrous leaves, you can use a veggie peeler to shave away the exterior of the stem, which is too woody to eat.
A little fava goes a long way when combined with asparagus, peas (feel free to use frozen), and bacon. Photo: Hirsheimer & Hamilton
There’s no way around it: Fava beans are a ton of work to prepare. First, they must be shelled from their oblong pods. Then, they have to be blanched and shocked. Finally, the waxy coating over the individual beans need to be removed. Then you can go ahead and prepare them per your recipe’s instructions. There are two ways to deal with the amount of work required. Senior web editor Carey Polis recommends using the time as an opportunity to mellow out with the repetitive work, and just embrace it. Dawn Perry, digital food editor, has another idea: Just use less favas in whatever recipe you’re making. That doesn’t mean you have to deal with tasting menu-sized portions. Instead, bump up the rest of your ingredients. For example, an purée made of fava beans would taste great, but would also be an extraordinary amount of work. Hack it by blending an easier-to-prep ingredient, like cooked chickpeas, and supplementing with a couple of tablespoons of favas.
We’re also not ashamed to admit it: We just really love frozen (and pre-shelled) peas. But if you’re feeling inspired, there can be something wonderfully meditative about shelling pea pod after pea pod. To make the task easier, yank the pod open from the end of the pea that has a small tail—it will give you better leverage, and pull the two sides apart almost effortlessly.
The name says it all: These springtime greens are covered in tiny thorns all over their stems and the undersides of their leaves. As soon as the nettles hit the heat they lose their sting, but prepping them (rinsing, chopping, etc.) with bare hands is painful. Wear clean dishwashing gloves when harvesting, rinsing, and chopping, and use heat-proof tongs to cook them. Definitely skip the raw salad.
There’s dirt in them-there crevices. Photo: flickr/travelingmcmahans
The English muffins of the forest, these spongy little mushrooms are notorious for trapping and holding onto dirt in their nooks and crannies. They can be so dirty that you may be tempted to dunk them in a bowl of water and give them a good soaking. But this would cause the mushrooms to become waterlogged, meaning they’ll steam, rather than sauté, in a hot pan. Instead, get them damp with cool running water and let a (clean, unused) toothbrush do all of the work. A gentle scrub with the bristles will help unlock all of the dirt and silt. Give them one final rinse, then gently pat dry.
Leeks are also notoriously sandy. Rather than knock yourself out trying to scrub debris from every layer, slice the white and light green portions into coins and use your thumb to pop them out into separate rings. Add them to a bowl of water and swish them around with your hand. Let them sit until the dirt settles to the bottom of the bowl, then use your hands or a skimmer to remove the leeks. Squeaky-clean!
Embrace the whole spring thing with this green salad:
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from Bon Appétit http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-prep-vegetables