As we head into late spring and summer, we revel in fresh, local, and seasonal foods like peas in the pod, corn on the cob, and colorful stalks of rhubarb. But during most of the year, we reach into the freezer for these ingredients. And you know what? We love them frozen, too.
For one thing, there’s the convenience. To get 2 cups of fresh sweet peas, you’d need to shell more than 2 pounds of pods. But with frozen, it’s just a matter of tearing open the package. Then there’s the flavor: Because they are picked at their best, frozen peas are always sweet and never starchy. Frozen peas pop up in a number of recipes in the CHEF iQ App—they’re the featured ingredient in our Spring Pea Soup as well as our Parmesan Risotto with Peas. They also add a pop of color and flavor to Penne with Pancetta Vodka Sauce and our Beef Stew. And for most of our recipes, there’s no need to thaw them first.
Edamame is a fantastic frozen find. We especially like it frozen in the pod, which not only protects the soybeans from potential freezer burn but also makes them fun to eat. Though tasty steamed or simmered and tossed with salt, our Miso Glazed Edamame kicks up their flavor. Corn is another freezer-friendly staple. Of course, frozen cannot compare to a freshly picked ear slathered with butter, but when you are using the kernels off the cob in a cooked dish, it’s hard to tell the difference between fresh and frozen. See for yourself in our Chicken Tortilla Soup or Fish Pozole.
When you cook fresh spinach, a lot wilts to very little. In order to get the amount of cooked spinach to make our Smart Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip, you’d have to start with multiple pillow-size bags of fresh. But since frozen spinach has been boiled or blanched before freezing, it doesn’t cook down further.
It’s not just produce that tastes great when frozen. Shrimp and lobster tails do, too. You may have noticed that the frozen shrimp costs less than the chilled shrimp on display in the fishmonger's case. In many cases it is the same shrimp, just defrosted. For that reason alone, it makes sense to buy frozen. The same goes for the lobster tails used in our classic Lobster Rolls. Frozen-at-sea fish can actually be of better quality than fresh fish. Halibut, which we slowly cook to silky tenderness in our Olive Oil Poached Halibut, is a good bet to buy frozen. For the freshest of frozen fish, look for products labeled IQF (individually quick frozen), which means they were frozen within hours of being caught.
Finally, let’s talk sweets. Frozen berries suffer in texture, so we would not recommend them for eating out of hand, but we love them in our smoothies. Come summer, you can freeze fresh berries (or cut-up rhubarb) yourself by spreading the berries out on a baking sheet and freezing until rock hard before transferring them to freezer bags. They’re great to use in sauces or in baked desserts like pie.
And speaking of pies, there are many frozen pie crusts that taste as good homemade (or better if baking is not your thing). Another baking staple we prefer to buy frozen is the puff pastry we use in our Maple Walnut Baked Brie. Sure, you can make it yourself, but it takes hours (and lots of butter) to create those flaky layers. With thawed frozen puff pastry, you can whip up a tasty appetizer or dessert in mere minutes.
And for us, that’s what all of the frozen-food favorites deliver: convenience and speed without sacrificing quality.