Steaming is my favorite spring cooking method. As we move into warmer weather, seasonal produce becomes lighter. Just think about the difference between dense parsnips and delicate green beans. Kale is a rough winter green, while Swiss chard is a more fragile spring green. Steaming is a great springtime cooking application that allows you to gently cook your spring veggies without turning them into a pile of mush!
The interesting fact about steaming is that temperatures can rise up to 250° F, higher than the standard boiling point (212° F). The difference between steaming and boiling is that when you steam, you’re actually cooking with the vapors the boiling water releases, as opposed to the water itself. This helps you retain more moisture and nutrients.
The healthiest way to steam vegetables is to use a steamer basket. A steamer basket is a stainless steel colander with legs, which keeps the food out of the boiling water. You can also use a bamboo steamer for veggies and traditional Chinese dim sum, like homemade dumplings.
Once steamed, you can season your food if desired. I like to toss my steamed asparagus, carrots, and Swiss chard with olive oil and sea salt. Sometimes I’ll also add an acid, like balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, to give it a zesty flavor. But you can leave your vegetables plain, especially if you’re cooking for your kids or someone on a restricted diet. That’s the best part of doing it yourself—you make the rules!
- Get Even. Wash and chop your veggies. Be sure each piece is relatively similar in size for even cooking. If you’re steaming more than one type of vegetable, separate them according to density, as they will require slightly different cook times.
- Add Water. Place your vegetables into a steamer basket and set aside. Fill a wide pot or high-sided pan with about an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling and vapors are releasing, add the steamer basket with veggies.
- Rise Above. The vegetables should rest slightly above the water. If you don’t have a steamer basket, toss your vegetables into the pot, but make sure they are not submerged. (They will touch the water, but if it’s just a small amount, the steam will still do its job).
- Pick Up Steam. Turn the heat down a bit and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let the veggies steam until you achieve the desired consistency and texture (I like it when my veggies are cooked through but still crisp).
- Time It. Cook times can range from about 2 to 10 minutes. Keep a watchful eye or set a timer, so you don’t overcook them. You can test a piece by piercing it with a fork. When ready, carefully remove the steamer basket.
- Finish & Enjoy. Enjoy your veggies au naturel or season to taste and serve.