Great Things for Great Veggies

Would you share your favorite vegetable recipes?

I think I have exactly two vegetable recipes, actually. Most of the time, if it’s a vegetable, I know what to do with it– mix and match its type with one of the basic methods for cooking.

I eat few vegetables raw. Salads, yes. Carrots and celery– woo! But everything else gets cooked in some fashion– I’m just not fond of the raw vegetable flavor on my palate.

Raw Steaming Frying Grilling Baking Sautee Soup and sauce
Salad greens YUM!
Cooking greens YUM YUM YUM
Red/yellow veggies YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM YUM
Root and Starchy vegetables Carrots
(not potatoes)
Mushrooms YUM
(in moderation)

Cooking Methods!

My vegetable cooking methods are: steaming, frying, grilling, baking, sauteeing, or use in sauce.

Steaming: get yourself a metal steamer basket (or plastic if you are a hard-core microwave user– you can usually find these at thrift stores or borrow from a neighbor). Cut the veggies and set them in the basket. Don’t overload it. Stick the basket in a pot with enough water to reach the bottom of the basket, but not so you’re soaking the veggies. Boil the water for 15-20 minutes. For lightweight veggies (like spinach), steam for about 5 minutes– you’re watching for the veggies to change color from a kind of dull green to a really bright, vibrant color. They change back to a darker green when they turn to mush, so watch for the brighter color, and take the veggies out right then– very tasty!

Frying: Smother in oil and spices. Put in frying pan and let sizzle. This is not the healthiest way to eat veggies (see sautee).

Grilling: On a grill or in the broiler, this is good for alliums and peppers. Cook until the tips of whatever you’re cooking start to
blacken. Do not grill potatoes.

Baking: The classic baked potato is 20 minutes at 350. Other bakable vegetables: onions (which sweeten as they cook), and bell peppers (try them stuffed). You can also cook a baked potato or similar item in the microwave, 4 minutes per potato.

Sautee: My favorite method of cooking anything unfamiliar. A tbsp of olive oil and an equal amount of crushed garlic. Heat in a pan. Toss the cut veggies in until the color “brightens” and they wilt just a little bit. Perfect for kale, spinach, and similar cooking greens, which only take about 8 minutes. Hardier vegetables take closer to 15-20 minutes.

Soups and Sauces: This is your classic “cut it up and dump it in.” Good for slow-cooking. If you cook vegetables overnight, though, take out the corpses of the veggies; they have given their all by then, and can be safely retired (if the soup or sauce is meat-free, they can go in the compost, or be fed to the neighbor’s dog). Steam a few fresh veggies and toss them in instead.

Vegetable Categories!
OK, vegetables fall into several categories:

Salad greens: These are your lettuces, some cabbages, celeries, bean sprouts, and spinach. You eat them raw, often with a bit of dressing and sometimes with some of the red/yellow vegetables cut up on top.
Cooking greens: Your mouth will know these because when you bite into them, you’ll pause and think you just ate a piece of earth. Kale, spinach, broccoli (some people like this raw, too), rapini, green beans, brussels sprouts, artichokes, summer squashes, and all their ilk. All of these do just fine steamed for a healthy option. Of course, a tastier choice is to sautee them in olive oil and garlic. There are very few vegetables that can’t be eaten if you put enough garlic and olive oil on them. Some of these, like the squashes and brussels sprouts, are good grilled, too.

Red/yellow veggies: Red bell peppers, tomatoes, and the like. Raw on salads, sliced and grilled, or chopped and cooked in a sauce. Cooked tomatoes release valuable antioxidants– eat weekly!

Root/starchy vegetables: Carrots, turnips, potatoes, winter squashes, beets, and the like. With few exceptions (carrots), cook these before eating. Cooking involves washing REALLY WELL, then either boiling for a set amount of time, baking, or, my favorite, microwaving. These are “done” when you can stick a fork in them and it slides out. If you stick a fork in and they fall apart, they’re a little too done– don’t cook so long next time. In a sauce or soup, these will thicken everything up. This produce counts towards your “5 a day” but should not be more than 2 or 3 servings out of the 5.

Alliums: Onions, garlic, leeks. Serve on a salad or cook like a starchy vegetable. These add a LOT of flavor to sauces and soups as well.

Corn: It’s a grain, but many people eat it like a vegetable. Can be eaten raw if it’s really fresh on the cob, or steam for 15-20 minutes. This produce does not count towards your “5 a day.”

Mushrooms and Eggplant: Mushrooms aren’t technically a vegetable, I know, but they’re produce. Most of the meatier mushrooms and all sliced eggplant can be cooked as if they were meats. You can chop them into a sauce, grill them, panfry, bake, etc. These are a good choice if you’re a hard-core carnivore and want to ease yourself into eating more plant-life.

A note on vegetable portions: The “Five a day” guideline says you should eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. That’s 5 total of both fruit and veggies. A serving is often a half cup to a cup of material, so a large salad is often up to three servings of vegetables. That said, you can never go wrong with more veggies!

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