Another way to recognize tender-crisp vegetables is that they retain most of their vibrant color. In fact, the color is often enhanced and brightened by the cooking. You know you've gone too far when the vegetable begins to dull and darken. Anyone who has tasted the difference between a limp, army-green colored green bean and a crisp-but-cooked vibrant green bean will understand this difference.
The term tender-crisp for vegetables appeared right around the time that the term al dente became popular for pasta. The danger in both of these methods is undercooking your ingredient, which sadly is often the case. In the service of not overcooking something, we sometimes can undercook it. Fishing out a sample and tasting it is the best way to go, but understand that it will still continue to cook a little after it is removed from the heat.
These days I find myself cooking my vegetables with a little more emphasis on tender than I have in the past. Of course, much depends on the vegetable and its application in the dish I am making. Sometimes I even break free of convention and cook a vegetable long and slow, like with my Slow-Cooked Broccoli with Lemon Breadcrumbs.
How about you? Have your cracked the tender-crisp conundrum in your kitchen? How crisp or tender do you like your veg?
Related: Home Hacks: How to Steam Vegetables
(Image: Emily Ho)