- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Boiling is a fast way to tenderize vegetables, but if you want great flavor and texture, don’t let vegetables cook in churning water.

This is especially true when applied to cruciferous vegetables, such as brussels spouts, cabbage and broccoli, in which boiling brings out strong odors and a slightly bitter taste. There are other techniques that yield better results and may be equally quick and easy.

Sauteing, which is cooking food in a little fat over high heat, is excellent for tender vegetables. When you saute onions or bell peppers, for example, you bring out the natural sugars in the food. The browning enhances the color, and the aroma that wafts through the kitchen is inviting.

Use the saute method to prepare tender or relatively high-moisture ingredients. You can also saute eggplant, celery, snow peas, sugar snap peas and zucchini. The same is true of cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, if the vegetables are first thinly sliced.

Roasting is another way to bring out vegetable flavors. Roasting, cooking in a shallow uncovered pan in the oven, is especially good for potatoes, beets and hard-shell squash. In addition, you can roast brussels sprouts, asparagus and bell peppers. You’ll find that roasting makes vegetable flavors milder.

You also can steam vegetables. Unlike boiling, steaming calls for cooking vegetables in an enclosed pot over simmering or boiling water.

In the following recipe, onion and bell peppers are mixed with Italian sausage for a robust and delicious one-dish dinner.

To serve the sausage and vegetables with a side of roasted potatoes, place 4 medium-size fingerling potatoes in a small, shallow pan. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven, turning over once or twice for 35 to 45 minutes or until tender.

Sausage skillet dinner

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano

2 4- to 6-ounce raw mild Italian sausages

½ cup pale ale or chicken broth

Dijon mustard

Roasted fingerling potatoes, optional

Heat olive oil in large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste and oregano, then saute for 5 minutes. Puncture the sausages in several places using a knife. Add the sausages and brown 2 minutes per side.

Add the ale or chicken broth and scrape up any browned bits in the skillet. Reduce heat to medium; simmer another 10 minutes or until sausages are cooked through, turning over once. Serve to 2 with mustard and potatoes.

Milk chocolate sundae

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 3-ounce bar high-quality milk chocolate

Pinch of salt

2/3 cup whipping cream

1 cup vanilla ice cream

2 tablespoons chocolate toffee chips

Combine butter, chocolate, salt and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over very low heat and stir until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Scoop ice cream into 2 bowls. Spoon milk chocolate sauce over and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon chocolate toffee chips. Makes 2 servings.

Note: This recipe makes a generous amount of chocolate sauce. If desired, spoon leftovers into a plastic container, cover and refrigerate up to one week. To reheat, spoon the desired amount of sauce into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on low at 30-second intervals until sauce becomes liquid.

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