The first rule of cooking vegetables: Just because you have a microwave doesn't mean you should use it.
I recently experienced an excruciating olfactory attack in a dive bar in Manhattan's West Village. Our sexy bartender opened a Gladware container filled with Brussels sprouts that sent several of us careening off our barstools.
A culinary friend of mine inquired as to what she had done to put these tiny cabbage balls in such pain. She claimed that she added a bit of water to the sprouts, then steamed them in the microwave.
I am not sure how long they cooked, but I promise you it was far, far too long.
If she had asked -- which she didn't -- I would have shared a few simple tips for cooking vegetables. If you're interested in cooking, do yourself (and your friends) a favor; read these before opening the microwave door:
Q: How do you know when it's done?
A: An editor of mine once insisted that chewing is for cows, and all vegetables should be cooked to the point that they dissolve when you push them to the roof of your mouth with your tongue.This is a lie.
Vegetables should be toothsome and have a bit of texture; they are amply cooked when the rawness and crunch is gone.
Q: What's the best way to cook vegetables? How do professional chefs do it?
A: The classic French technique is to blanch and shock your vegetables. Blanching refers to plunging raw vegetables into boiling water and removing them when they're at their most vivid (think bright orange carrots, emerald green beans...).
As soon as the color is lively, and the rawness is gone (this can be anywhere from one to three minutes), shock your vegetables to stop the cooking immediately by submerging them in an ice-water bath.