“Eat your veggies!” Who hasn’t heard that in their lifetime?
I’m confronted with a quandary. I found an easy recipe to incorporate two vegetables I adore – parsnip and fennel, straight from the Piazza Farmer’s Market. However, I typically avoid boiling vegetables due to a considerable pool of evidence that boiling causes a loss of vital nutrients. You’d basically have to drink the cooking water to reclaim the vitamins.
But there’s some evidence to the contrary. Each vegetable may have its own desired cooking method when it comes to nutrient preservation. A WebMD article featured a study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that found boiled carrots contained higher levels of carotenoids (an antioxidant) than raw carrots, and steamed broccoli contained higher levels of cancer-fighting compounds than raw broccoli. Marion Nestle’s review on her Food Politics blog noted a similar study that found boiling Brussels sprouts increased the presence of certain phytochemicals, but a decrease in others. Finally, my most recent issue of Cooking Light contained an article suggesting that adding salt when boiling vegetables reduces the leaching of nutrients into the water. Intrigued, I did an Internet search on this topic but results were sparse and unconvincing.
Data and analysis aside, it is generally good cooking practice to use as little water and as little heat (i.e. cooking time) as possible to help retain nutrients in vegetables. However, cooking some vegetables, such as onions, garlic and tomatoes, can actually increase its healthful properties.
Most Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. In my book, whether raw, steamed, boiled, or sautéed, vegetables are a win-win. Enjoy them for the taste, the color, the texture, the nutrition. In this recipe, I depart from my usual roasting method with this boil and mash technique. Choose to cook your vegetables how you enjoy them most (easy on the butter and cheese); and give yourself some credit for even choosing vegetables at all.
Parsnip and Fennel Puree
- 2 large parsnips (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1 small fennel bulb, stalks trimmed flush with bulb and bulb chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- In a saucepan cover parsnips and fennel with salted water and boil, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until very tender.
- Drain vegetables.
- In a food processor (or use hand blender), purée hot vegetables with butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.