Food and Drink: Q & A

By / Magazine / April 23rd, 2010 / Like

Cooking is a science. Toss out the recipe and cook with passion. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. The problem is that we’re not all scientists or masters of improvisation, resulting in some recipes going horribly wrong. What if, every time you ran into a glitch, you had at your fingertips all the information you needed to turn your cooking disaster into a smashing success? Well, here it is. Tidings offers you a forum to share any cooking and wine related questions you have. Tell us about strange observations or contradictory information you’ve come across about recipes and food, too. We’ll put our collective experience together to shed some light and provide you with a way to fix your cooking dilemmas.

Here are two to start.

Why do green vegetables change colour when cooked?

At first, very hot water, steam or fat make green vegetables even brighter; but, cook them any longer and you’ll notice that emerald green turn quickly to faded grey-yellow. Here’s what happens. The heat forces cholorophyll (the green pigment) to expand and eventually escape the vegetable’s cells until it has completely evaporated. Bright green vegetables are certainly more appetizing, so how does one cook them without losing that bright green colour?

These are a few tricks of the trade:

• Fried vegetables (think tempura) cook so quickly that they will stay green if served immediately.

• Boil or steam vegetables for just a few minutes until they’re tender-crisp.

• If serving cold or re-heated vegetables, blanch them quickly first until they’re bright green. Remove them from the hot water and immediately immerse them in ice water until cool; the cold water will stabilize the chlorophyll.

• Acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, will also cause green vegetables to turn grey-yellow; minimize the effects by waiting until the last minute to mix in a dressing.

Why does red cabbage turn blue when cooked?

Red cabbage contains two pigments: red and blue, which, when exposed to heat, like to engage in a kind of vegetable civil war. Each colour wants to dominate the whole. The blue team is very good at shoring up its defences and can put up a good fight. Call it poor strategizing, but the red team consistently finds itself calling for back-up. That’s where you come in. To keep cabbage looking its finest, add vinegar or lemon juice to taste to the boiling water. That hit of acid is enough to help the reds win the day.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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