Have you made a New Year’s Resolution to eat healthier, cook more, or try new things? Shaking up the way you prepare your vegetables is a perfect way to accomplish all three.
Preparing vegetables in ways that enhance their natural flavors and qualities makes them more delicious—even for the pickiest of vegetable critics. Remember when we all despised Brussels sprouts? Then restaurants and food blogs across the country began roasting these cruciferous beauties to golden perfection and they tasted so great that they have become a staple on many farm-to-table menus.
Changing preparation methods not only keeps your taste buds intrigued but also helps your body absorb different nutrients from the same piece of produce. Different vitamins and minerals found in vegetables are more or less readily available to our bodies with cooking.
Take tomatoes as an example. Raw tomatoes contain greater amounts of vitamin C (an important antioxidant), whereas cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene (a cancer-fighting phytochemical). Leafy greens are delicious steamed, but their vitamin K (for healthy circulation and bones) is better absorbed when served with a fat-containing food (such as oil, nuts, or cheese).
While you get into this vegetable revolution, remember that vegetables aren’t just for the salad bar and dinner table. Varying your preparation method will provide taste variation and health benefits. Here are few ways to use vegetables in unexpected ways and dishes:
• Use mashed vegetables, like Mashed Cauliflower, in place of starchier alternatives (or go half and half!);
• Try usually-cooked vegetables raw (and vice versa!);
• Bake vegetable-based desserts, such as NYTimes Flourless Carrot Cake;
• Boost your breakfast with a Green Smoothie;
• Slice, peel, and dice in new ways for a new look, like strands of Zucchini “Linguine”;
• Muddle or juice vegetables, such as cucumber, carrots, or beets, for the base of unique cocktail variations—this Beet Me in St. Louis sounds terrific!
If you’re not sure where to start, here are 2 salads with a change of pace.
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pears and Bleu Cheese
Makes 6 starter or side dish servings
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 large pear, sliced into crescents
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
2oz Humboldt Fog (or Bleu cheese of choice)
1. Cut leaves from Brussels sprouts to use in salad:
• Slice each sprout, half perpendicular to the stem (do not cut through stem).
• Take stem-side and cut leaves around stem. Discard stem and sprout’s tough core.
• Take top half of sprout and slice thinly.
• Repeat with all sprouts.
2. Toss Brussels sprouts leaves with lemon juice, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
3. Place pear slices and crumble cheese on top of salad. Toss or serve with fruit and cheese displayed on top.
Grilled Caesar Salad
This salad is an excellent starter or side dish anytime you’re grilling (indoors or out!). I recommend it topped with a few homemade croutons.
4 anchovies, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 raw egg yolk, beaten (use 2 Tbs yogurt or omit if this ingredient does not suit you)
2 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
For Grilled Romaine:
3 romaine hearts
4 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
¼-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Make dressing: Using mortar and pestle (or bowl and back of spoon), grind anchovies and garlic.
In small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Set aside.
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush with 1 Tbs olive oil.
Slice romaine hearts in half lengthwise (through the stem, but keep the stem on so leaves of each half stays intact).
Mix together remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Brush inside of each romaine half with mixture.
Place romaine hearts inside-down on grill for 2 minutes.
Turn 90 degrees to make cross-hatch marks and grill another 2 minutes. (Depending on your grill size, repeat this step with other halves as needed).
Remove lettuce from the grill and drizzle dressing evenly over each; top each half with Parmesan cheese and croutons (if using). Can be served warm or room temperature.