Cooking With Parchment: A Way to Better Vegetables

article image
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ELENATHEWISE
If you're wanting better looking and tasting cooked vegetables, you may want to try cooking with parchment.

Recently I met Ann Sperling, a delightful and dedicated
woman who has made a life’s work of helping others stay
healthy, and who now distributes a unique vegetable cooking
parchment called Vita-Wrap. I can tell you from firsthand
experience that cooking with parchment not only keeps those
valuable vitamins and minerals in your fresh vegetables
from escaping into the water in which they’re cooked, but
it actually locks in a great deal of extra flavor and
texture that usually gets poured down the drain.

I was first introduced to Ann’s vegetable parchment by two
friends as we sat in a deli one afternoon talking over the
relative merits of mild dills and pickled tomatoes. One of
my friends mentioned that she had recently made some
applesauce by using a sample of vegetable parchment that
Ann had given her. Naturally I was skeptical
because — the way she talked about making the
sauce — it sounded like she had cooked the apples right
in a sheet of paper. How preposterous! Surprise! My friend
assured me that was exactly what she had done and gave me a
few sheets of the parchment of my own to try.

I accepted the challenge. After all, if I — the world’s
most average kitchen captain — could make fresh
vegetables tastier with this new parchment, then I
certainly wanted to know about it. The instructions were
simple: wet a sheet of the paper, wrap my vegetables or
fruit in it, tie off the top, and put the whole package in
boiling water. From that point I was on my own.

When I went home to prepare dinner that night I ran two
pots of boiling water and wet a piece of parchment (it
comes in twenty-four-inch-square sheets) to make it
pliable. Then I put a cup of fresh shelled peas in the
center of the sheet with a pad of fresh butter, tied the
ends up into a pouch, and dropped the package into one of
the pots of boiling water. For the sake of comparison I
poured the same amount of fresh peas directly into the
other pot of bubbling water with a pad of b utter … and
then waited for both pans to finish cooking. The results
were surprisingly clear-cut.

The peas cooked in the vegetable parchment had a definitely
deeper green color and a fuller richer texture. None of the
water had come through the material, so the peas had cooked
only in their natural juices. By comparison, the other
batch cooked directly in boiling water-had a smoother,
almost ball-bearing texture and blander taste (presumably
because of the liquid they had soaked up by direct
osmosis). An interesting sidelight was that none of the
butter seeped through or even stained the parchment, which
I later learned was grease resistant. The pot in which the
Vita-Wrap had been used needed no scrubbing or cleaning of
any kind.

Since that first experiment I’ve discovered that all
vegetables (carrots, beans, cauliflower, and even small
potatoes) have a better taste and cook more rapidly when
prepared in parchment.

I’ve been using Ann’s vegetable parchment cooking wrap ever
since (it’s reusable and does not retain the odor or taste
of food prepared in it … just hang a sheet out to dry
after each use), and recommend it to all my friends. My
thanks to Ann for making my fresh vegetables even more
enjoyable!