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Cooking Tips

The Smartest Kitchen Hack for Your Colander

Pasta dinner on deck tonight? Instead of just using your colander to drain hot pasta water, learn a quick trick to maximize your meal.

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A lot of quick-cooking tips can be, well, a little familiar. Think: Chop two onions if you’re cutting one and freeze what you don’t use. Clean up as you go. Dice things in smaller pieces to cook faster.

See? Tried and true. Very, very tried and true.

But here’s a way to go beyond the usual: Cook with your colander!

The next time you use it to drain cooked pasta, don’t waste the boiling water. Instead, fill a colander with vegetables, set it in the sink, and then pour that hot pasta water over them. The vegetables will blanch quickly, and everything will be ready to sauce without the need for another piece of cookware.

See the technique in action here:

Here’s how it works: Start with a large colander. Seriously. Not those dainty ones for two green beans. Big.

Set it in the sink. Add trimmed or cut-up quick-cooking vegetables. Think asparagus, green beans, fennel, celery, sugar snap peas, yellow squash, zucchini, shallots, and/or leeks.

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Don’t mince them or they’ll go right through the colander under the torrent of water to come. Try 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces, maybe a little smaller for the onion and leek. Or slice those into thin rings.

Bring the water to a boil for pasta or whole grains in the largest pot you have. Use lots of water. Don’t skimp. Lots of water will cook everything in the colander efficiently.

Add the whole grains or pasta. Cook as directed. Then pour the boiling water and pasta slowly and evenly over the ingredients in the colander. Let the hot grains or pasta sit on top of everything both to insulate and heat them for another few minutes.

At this point, your dinner’s ready to be sauced. Toss the contents of the colander into a large bowl with some marinara sauce. Or some unsalted organic butter, minced garlic, and fresh herbs. Or even a creamy salad dressing that still lets you eat clean. Done. Dinner. And way beyond the tried and true.

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