7 Paths to Veggie Nirvana
New Year New food? Try these seven ways to prepare delicious and healthy vegetables to help you on your path to reach your goals.
Braising is an old but new way to cook delicious vegetables. We often think of braising as something just for tougher cuts of meat, a way to break them down into tender and delicious parts of the meal. However, vegetables also lend themselves to braising and are wonderfully rich and flavorful when prepared this way.
Which food should be braised?
- beans and legumes-anything that is dried and needs to cook in liquid. Also veggies like green beans that are normally served crisp tender
- root vegetables-carrots come to mind first, and are probably the most popular candidates for a good braise, but beets, kohlrabi, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and rutabagas are prime and do well in a braising situation
- greens-all cooking greens, kale collard, chard,cabbage are great, and actually need to be braised to become more tender and release some of their nutrients.
- celery family -celery and fennel fennel develop a very sweet profile when braised
- onion family-onions, all kinds, leeks and shallots, develop an extra sweet, mellow flavor. Caramelized onions are delicious on just about anything.
- summer veggies-do well in a braise, such as a ratatouille, thin bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. With a little seasoning, these are amazing together.
- winter squashes-such as butternut squash, kabocha, and acorn are wonderful braised in a stew, soup, or a mixed braise.
1 1/2 to 2 lbs suitable braising vegetables
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1/3 finely diced yellow onion
1/3 cup 100% white grape juice, dry white wine
1 - 1/2 cup stock….chicken or vegetable or mushroom
salt and pepper
seasonings to taste…Italian, curry, savory herbs, spices with heat, etc. optional
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
cut vegetable so they will cook evenly, heat 1 Tbs butter in pan over medium high heat.
add onion to melted butter and cook stirring often until soft, 2-3 minutes
Add grape juice and reduce to half 1-2 minutes
Add vegetable and stock raise heat to high and boil. As soon as large bubbles are formed in pan, reduce heat to simmer and cover with lid.
cook until finished, vegetables should be slightly soft
transfer to warm serving platter and cover to keep warm.
Optional, but highly recommend is to reduce liquid to about 1/3 cup, about 8-19 minutes
Add lemon juice and adjust seasonings.
Use sauce on vegetables or on rice.
Adding cream or other seasonings such as curry, coconut milk, sage, thyme, gives the vegetables a whole new flavor profile
2. ROASTED ON A RACK
The most used vegetables for roasting are ….. just about anything! Even a slow roasted tomato is done to perfection on a rack cooked slow and low. This is my favorite way to cook vegetables as they become more sweet and with a deeper flavor when they brown according to the maillard effect.
Although leafy greens like spinach, beans and pulses, and celery are probably not the best thing to do on a rack, just about anything else is. Thick slices of onion,romaine halves on a rack over the BBQ, cubed winter veggies, slabs and slices of just about anything cook with less oil and taste richer on a rack.
See recipes and more detailed cooking directions at veggie 2.0
Roasting on a rack, is of course my favorite. Be sure that they are 100% stainless steel, extra heavy duty, oven safe to 575°F, and can be used in the oven, on the BBQ, or to broil. Check out the live-nimble cooling rack on Amazon for the heaviest weight rack.
Again, cut desired vegetable to similar size to cook and place in bowl. Add oil, seasonings, and toss to coat. Place on a rack that is on a foil lined baking sheet (easy clean up) and roast at 400°F to 425°F until just tender, and nicely browned according to taste.
You can cook several types of vegetables on the rack at the same time, or add other vegetables to the rack along the way if they take less time to cook.
For awesome recipes for vegetables roasted on a rack check out this link -
3. ROASTED IN A PAN
- 9x13 glass pan, or half sheet pan
You will get different results. When heavily roasted this makes an awesome pasta sauce over rice, quinoa, etc. Great when cooking with cuts of meat. They will not brown as deeply as BBQ or rack roasted veggies.
prepare veggies by cutting to appropriate cooking size
drizzle oil and sprinkle seasonings on vegetables, then mix.
cook at 400°F until soft, if you want to use for sauce, cook a bit softer.
stir to mix again, and then serve with pasta, quinoa, rice or other grain/seed.
Vegetables that are sliced about 1/4” thick are the best application for this. You cannot cook as many at a time as the surface needs to be in contact with the hot pan. Fry with a small amount of oil in a nonstick, cast iron pan, or heavy bottom stainless steel pan. When brown enough, turn each piece and cook the other side to desired brown. Remove from pan and keep warm, fry another batch if needed. You can also cube the vegetables and sautee, but getting them evenly brown can be difficult.
The best vegetables for this are firmer such as tubers, squash, etc. Potatoes are especially nice. Sautéing vegetables such as onions on a low and slow burner will give you delicious caramelized results. Mushrooms are also spectacular cooked this way, low heat, slow cooked with some pasture-raised butter or quality oil.
5. PRESSURE COOKER, MULTI COOK POT, CROCK POT
People who have pressure cookers, crock pots, or multi cook pots love them once they practice a bit and understand how to do it. It takes a bit of practice, but once comfortable with the process, people just love them. You can steam, pressure cook quickly, do soups, or braise and more. This is not the best for caramelizing the food, so you won’t have that sweeter, deeper flavor that roasting on a rack gives you. That is just fine, though, as different flavors and different methods are what make cooking interesting, varied, and keeps you on your path to a healthy lifestyle. Read the directions for your appliance for guidelines and recipes. and to increase the ways to cook vegetables so you are never bored.
6. BBQ ON A RACK
This is probably my all time favorite, using a cooking/cooling rack like live-nimble on the larger grill of a BBQ gives you more security in cooking the vegetables as they won’t fall through, stick, while still having the greatest area exposed to the grill. Flavorful, whether cooked with gas or an aromatic wood, they are almost the best part of summer. Then there is the fruit I grill, and the meat……..I love summer!!
7. EN PAPILLOTE …..parchment paper packets filled with vegetables, seasoning, meat, pasta, etc.
This is a super way to cook an easy clean-up, one pot meal. Simple prep veggies, (cut, oil,season) and then put on top of pasta that is somewhat al dente. Top with meat if you would like, fold paper over lengthwise, and then the ends, cook until done….
I love to do a slice of salmon, carrots, red peppers, slice of onion, thin slices of potato, tomato, whatever you like. Layer, with al dente spaghetti, (or spaghetti squash) top with seasoned vegetables, then the salmon. Cook about 15-30 minutes depending on thickness of salmon, place on plate and enjoy! Elegant for a dinner party, or just easy for dinner, it doesn’t matter.
Vegetables can become your favorite food, not just a side dish to a hun of meat. It is estimated that the average pound of vegetables is only about 70 calories, while a pound of heavy carbs can be 600 calories. If you focus on a plant based diet and then add the other food groups in, you will have a delicious nutritous, and healthy diet.
For additional tips for great veggies check out these links:
- Nancy Oar