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Culinary definition of blanch:  To shock food (vegetables, fruit, tomatoes, nuts) quickly in boiling then ice water, to either loosen skin for peeling, or to brighten and retain colour and preserve flavour.

blanched broccoli ice bath 325x225Blanching julienned or small-cut vegetables like broccoli, carrots, bean, asparagus, even corn niblets, is a great way to prepare them al-dente for cold vegetable salad or garnish.

Blanched vegetables are beautifully crunchy and crisp inside, but the thin layer of soft created by the quick bath in boiling water, soaks up vinaigrettes and other dressings, in perfect measure. Left a few hours in the fridge - even better. 

blanching spinach 225x325Be sure that you don't heat up (and render useless) the ice water bath by adding too much boiling water to it with the fruit or vegetables.  First strain the food well - particularly leafy items like spinach etc - then add to ice water.  A common mistake is to pour the food and the hot water directly into the ice bath.   See correct technique right.

Great time-saving 'make-ahead side dish' trick - blanch veggies early in the day and be sure they cool completely (above right), dry, cover and set aside.  Just before serving dinner, re-heat veggies in a sauté pan with olive oil (bacon fat is divine) or butter and a bit of garlic and/or citrus zest.  The small amount of absorbed water will help finish cooking. 

The general rule of thumb for blanching peaches and tomatoes for peeling is to first cut a shallow X in the skin of the fruit (opposite to stem end - serrated knife works well), then immerse ripe fruit in boiling water for 45-60 seconds (depending on ripeness; until the skin splits at X). Remove quickly and immerse in iced water to arrest cooking.  Remove from water, drain and peel.  Re-blanche if needed.

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