Young vegetables, baby vegetables, whatever you choose to call them, they are the trend that keeps on going. These offerings are the immature versions of vegetables, such as carrots, bok choy, corn, beets and beans. But, they’re not just pretty to look at. Baby vegetables are usually more tender and flavourful than their full-grown compatriots because they contain higher concentrations of sugar. What they gain in looks and taste, however, is lost in nutrition. A plant that hasn’t had enough time to soak up nutrients from the sun and soil isn’t packed with as many vitamins and minerals as the ripe versions. Baby vegetables are typically thought of as specialty items, so they tend to cost more.
If you’re particularly fond of these little delicacies, as I am, then there are some things to keep in mind as you prepare them. Here are the basics.
Add clean vegetables to a pot filled with enough boiling water to cover them. Don’t leave the room while you’re doing this. Because these vegetables are so young and tender, they’ll reach that desirable tender-crisp stage in only a few minutes. Drain. Serve immediately, or immerse in cold water until cool. The cold water will stop the cooking process and lock in the colour.
Place vegetables on a steamer rack about 1/2 inch above gently boiling water; cover. Cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced. As above, serve immediately or immerse in cold water until cool.
Baby Vegetables with Toasted Almond Skordalia
Makes 1 cup
2 large egg yolks
2 clovesgarlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 to 4 Tbsp dry white wine
1 cup olive oil
Ground toasted almonds (directions follow)
3 to 4 lbw raw or cooked baby vegetables
1. In a 350°F oven, bake 1/3 cup whole unblanched almonds in a large pan until nuts are golden under the skin, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Pour almonds in a food processor or blender and grind.
2. In a blender, combine yolks, garlic, lemon juice, sugar and 1 Tbsp wine; blend. With motor running, pour in olive oil in a slow, steady stream; the mixture will come together like mayonnaise. Stir in almonds. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more wine. Add salt to taste.
3. Arrange vegetables in a basket; place sauce in a bowl alongside.
Serve with Moscato, Prosecco or Madeira.