Although summer is always billed as the grilling season, I think I spend just as much time (if not more) preparing food with a big pot of boiling water during the warm weather months, than I do stoking the coals. You may have visions of some hapless retro-housewife who makes dinner by boiling everything from the chicken to the canned corn; but done gently and quickly, boiling is a great way to cook lots of ingredients all at one time, while maintaining their seasonal freshness. For the task, I use my trusty aluminum pot, a tried-and-true hand-me-down that is thin enough so that water boils in a snap (this will not be the case if you try and boil water in a thicker pot like Calphalon). It’s amazing how many things you can make using just one big pot of water; in sequence, here are some of the dishes I can get in one boiling pot session:
First up, potatoes (because they need to start cooking in cold water that is brought to a simmer). I scrub new or fingerling potatoes, place them immediately in salted cold water, and bring the pot to an active simmer. After 4-6 minutes or so, I test one potato by putting the tip of a sharp knife or steak knife into it: If it enters easily and the potato is tender, I remove them to a bowl with a spider or serrated spoon, and immediately sprinkle them all over with white wine or apple cider vinegar so they can absorb the flavors. I then use them for warm potato salad or to add to any summer salads like a nicoise.
Once you can pierce the rabe stems with the tip of a knife (you don’t want it to be mushy, just tender), remove the bunch with a spider or tongs, and put aside for sauteing in olive oil with a combination of garlic, red pepper flakes, and smashed anchovies and adding to pasta.
Next up, a package of soba noodles. After cooking for about 4 minutes, remove the noodles with a spider or tongs, rinse them in cold water, and then add them to a stir-fry instead of rice or, on a hot night when you want something cool and not-heavy, make this…
An Asian noodle salad tossed with a vinaigrette of 2 parts rice wine vinegar, 1 part grapeseed oil, a drizzle of sesame oil, a bit of honey, and some grated ginger, garnished with torn sheets of nori,Â and topped with medium-boiled eggs that I also cooked in that same pot of boil after I took out the noodles…
For medium cooked eggs,Â simmer them in the pot for about 9 minutes (the one caveat with using an aluminum pot is that they will bounce around a bit so you may get cracked eggs, which is only a problem if you want to dye them for Easter). I keep the eggs for the aforementioned noodle dishes, adding protein to a green salad, chopping and blending them with mayo, salt, freshly ground pepper, tarragon, parsley, chives or any handy herbs for egg salad, or smashed on toast for breakfast.
Above are just some of the dishes from my most recent boiled water session: Potato salad with a mustard-thyme vinaigrette; blanched asparagus for a puff pastry tart; boiled egg for breakfast; rabe for dinner and noodles for lunch.
There are so many more possibilities…so let me know what you throw in the pot!