For Bon Appetit, by Alex Delany.
In terms of convenience, frozen vegetables are the Amazon Prime of the freezer aisle. In terms of flavor and texture, well, that’s a little more of a crap shoot. But we’ll say that frozen veggies get shamed far more than they deserve; there are definitely a handful that have earned our respect.
It turns out that frozen vegetables are often more nutritious than fresh because they’re picked at peak ripeness when nutrient levels are highest, usually partly cooked, and frozen before they can degrade. When your vegetables are late-season or on the vine/bush/root for a bit too long, the vitamins and nutrients may take a hit. You can go call Great Aunt Ingrid and tell her that no, freezing doesn’t kill all the vitamins. And yes, you will be over for a few games of gin rummy Saturday afternoon.
When it comes down to it, we’d say there are three frozen vegetables you should consistently spend your time with. Cauliflower and broccoli can lose their crisp and crunch during the freezing process. Those we’d only use for making a soup or curry, somewhere they’ll be mixed with other flavors (ditto on carrots). And frozen lima beans? Not our favorite. Here are the three frozen veggies that senior food editor Chris Morocco has stamped with the BA seal of approval:
There are no better peas than frozen peas. Go ahead, shell and pick through fresh peas. The frozen ones will still taste better. We promise. Plus, they cook almost instantly in boiling water or a steamer (seriously, like in 30 seconds), making them an easy addition to pastas or salads and saving you a lot of time from the start of dinner prep to the finish. There are a ton of things worth doing in this world. Shelling peas for half an hour is certainly not one of them.
Fresh artichokes are the hand grenades of the home kitchen. Basically, you should just stay away from them entirely. Hacking away at those leaves just to get an extremely limited yield of edible heart isn’t worth the risk of losing a finger. Or your temper. Frozen artichokes let you bypass the extraction process entirely, with your sanity intact. If you’ve noticed a trend about time saving starting to develop here, you’re an observant and intelligent person.
Washing, blanching, shocking, and squeezing out a sinkful of fresh spinach that cooks down to nothing in the end makes us mad. Saving 20 minutes of prep work by using frozen spinach? That makes us happy. Spinach is a frozen vegetable with flavor that holds up to the freezing process, and its texture doesn’t suffer because cooked spinach is so soft. If you’re planning on making spanakopita, spinach dip, lasagna, or stuffed shells — basically, any spinach dish your mom made — use frozen.
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