(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
During spring, lots of eager eaters fill shopping baskets with loads of fresh vegetables to enjoy raw for their crunchy textures. It might be a steamer basket, though, that would be more in order, according to studies about how to lower your cholesterol.
Researchers from the USDA and elsewhere have shown that, when lightly steamed, in vitro bile acid binding is significantly improved. This means that the liver needs to exhaust more LDL (often referred to as the "bad" type of cholesterol) in order to produce bile. That, in turn, usually equals less of this substance circulating in your bloodstream.
Vegetables that have been proven best in various studies include cauliflower, carrots, green beans, asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, green bell pepper, cabbage and mustard and collard greens.
The problem is cooks sometimes look at steaming as a one-way route to boring, bland --- and sometimes mushy --- results. The following recipes, which are some of my perennial spring favorites, highlight that that doesn't have to be the result.
The most interesting and delicious steamed vegetable dishes don't just involve you throwing everything willy-nilly into a steamer basket. The vegetables can be layered for the most effective resulting textures and flavors.
The carrots in the pesto dish that follows are topped with anise-flavored fennel and then potatoes. Ginger is included with the steaming cauliflower and squash in the other example.
Timing also matters. "Tough" customers such as cauliflower steam for a long period, whereas thinner fare, like snow peas, are steamed for only a few minutes.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
STEAMED VEGETABLES WITH BASIL-PECAN PESTO 6 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1 / 8-inch-thick slices 2 fennel bulbs (sometimes called anise), stalks trimmed flush with bulb and bulb cut lengthwise into 1 / 8-inch-thick slices 1& 1 / 2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into 1/ 4-inch-thick slices 1& 1 / 2 pounds green beans, trimmed 3 to 4 tablespoons hot water1& 1 / 4 cups basil pecan pestoPesto: 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well and spun dry 2 / 3 cup olive oil 1 / 2 cup pecans, toasted golden brown and cooled 1 / 3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 large garlic cloves, chopped and mashed to a paste with 1 / 2 teaspoon salt Additional salt, to taste Pepper, to taste Yields 6 servings.
To prepare vegetables: On a large steamer rack layer carrots, then fennel, and then potatoes and steam over boiling water, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer steamed vegetables to a platter. Steam beans, covered, until just tender, about 10 minutes, and transfer to a platter.
In a food processor blend pesto ingredients with 3 tablespoons hot water, adding additional hot water if necessary to reach desired consistency.
Serve vegetables warm or at room temperature with as much pesto as desired. Recipe yields about 1&1 / 4 cups pesto. Pesto keeps, surface covered with plastic wrap, chilled, 1 week. -Epicurious.com
STEAMED CHILE-LIME VEGETABLES 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped 1 teaspoon grated lime peel 1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper (see Note) 1 / 2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 3 cups cut-up fresh vegetables, such as broccoli florets, cauliflower florets and/or carrots
Yields 6 servings.
In a 1-quart saucepan, melt butter or margarine over low heat. Add garlic; cook and stir about 20 seconds. Add lime peel, chile, salt and lime juice; mix well. Set aside.
In a 4-quart saucepan, add steamer basket. Add 1 cup water; heat to boiling.
Add cut-up vegetables to basket; cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
To serve: Carefully place vegetables in serving bowl. Add butter mixture; toss gently to coat.Note: Experts recommend wearing latex gloves when handling peppers and not touching your eyes during or afterward.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: If you not only wished that every meal would start with dessert, but every day, too, Shelly Jaronsky wants to call you her "best friend," and she often does in her The Cookies and Cups Cookbook. She writes that she's improving your life by teaching you to bake and eat sweets for breakfast. When "the fudgiest" brownies and vanilla bean snickerdoodles are on the menu, how could you go wrong? There are healthy and hearty choices as well, nicely rounding out the menu.
at Creators Syndicate is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.