Veggie Tricks That’ll Change Your Life
If prepping vegetables is such a pain that you eat fewer of them, try these pro tips to make cleaning, peeling, slicing, and dicing a breeze.
You want to put more fresh vegetables on your family’s table, right? But more veggies means more prep work. Instead of giving up and reaching for frozen, try this chef’s mix of tips and tricks to help you handle all kinds of veggies, even the ones you aren’t sure what to do with.
But before you start slicing or peeling, you have to wash your veggies. Yes, even the ones whose skin or rind is inedible or will be peeled, says Panera Bread® food team member John Taylor. “When you slice through something that hasn’t been washed, you can transfer contaminants from your knife to the edible flesh.” Clean water helps, but even more effective is submerging veggies in a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water. Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent, and because it’s safe to ingest, there’s no need to follow up with a rinse. Simply soak for a few minutes and lay your veggies out to dry.
Or (especially if you’ll not be peeling the item and don’t want to taste vinegar), you can also keep a 1 to 3 blend of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Mist veggies, allow them to rest for 30 seconds, then rub the surface to and rinse under cold water.
Cleaned up? Good—now you’re ready to make short work of veggie prep with these clever tips:
Deseed peppers. Annoyed by a spray of tiny bell pepper seeds all over your cutting board? Slice off the stem, reach inside with your fingers, and scoop out the innards in one large clump.
Smooth celery. To remove the tough, stringy outer strands of a celery stalk, run a peeler gently over the outside. You’ll be left with a tender stalk that’s just right for snacking or adding to your favorite recipes. Use the same technique to peel broccoli stems, making them more tender too.
Scoop cucumbers. To neatly remove the seedy center of a cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and use a grapefruit spoon. The spoon’s sharp teeth and pointy shape are perfect for handily cleaning the core of the cuke. The same trick works for zucchini and for cleaning seeds and pulp from the center of a cut cantaloupe.
Skin tomatoes. You may already know that a quick dip in boiling water makes tomatoes easy to peel. But did you know that roasting does the same thing—and it intensifies flavor? Remove the stems and cut the tomatoes in half. Place them cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast them under high heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the tomatoes have cooled, simply pinch off the skin. Then use them in your favorite soup or sauce recipe. (Another tomato hint: If you’re using cherry or grape tomatoes in a recipe, turn up the flavor by cutting them in half, sprinkling them with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, and slow roasting them at 250 degrees for a couple of hours, John says. The flavor far outpaces what these little tomatoes usually offer.)
Slice squash. Acorn squash, butternut squash, and sugar pumpkins are best handled with a very sharp knife. Slice them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Squash can be cooked in the oven on a jelly roll pan, cut-side down in about an inch of water.