Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harness the power of steam

Steamed things can be quite delicious. Veggies steam quickly, and don't get as mushy and gross as they do when you boil them. Dumplings are meant to be steamed. Potatoes, I discovered today, also steam up really well. (A friend suggests steamed potato pieces mashed with coconut milk. Sounds awesome!)

You can get a metal steamer basket or a bamboo steamer really cheap. Then you set whatever it is (bamboo or metal) over a pot of boiling water. With a bamboo steamer, you set the wooden tower in already boiling water. You can even season the water for a nice aroma! You can do more than one food at a time, and even steam delicate things like fish. Line the basket with lettuce, cabbage, or other leafy greens. Or parchment paper, or a ceramic plate. Just leave room at the edges for the steam to get through.

A metal steamer is not quite as versatile, but it'll also do anything in small pieces-- veggies, or dumplings for instance. With the metal steamer, put it into cool water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and cover the saucepan with a lid, and voila, steam.

In both cases, you want the water to be below the food, even as it boils and bubbles. But you can't let your pot run out of water. That'll burn your bamboo or start your pot smoking (hehe) and that is not good for the taste of your food.

You can also get a basket insert for your rice cooker, if you have one, which does the exact same thing at the same time as it cooks your rice. (Or doesn't cook your rice, if you're not having rice. Just be sure to get the water hot before you start timing.)

Steam for as long as you like, but you can overcook with steam. Small veggies can take as little as 3 minutes. Here's one suggested table of cook times.

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