Vegetables are delicious!
what??? That’s the big secret?
No, seriously vegetables are delicious!
I’m not talking about steamed broccoli, a green salad or a frozen vegetable medley of carrots, corn and green beans. Those small spoonful of vegetables we dutifully put on the plate next to our large serving of chicken, beef or some other protein.
- I’m talking about:
- roasted golden beets
- steamed cauliflower with bread crumbs and vinegar
- maple glazed carrots
- roasted leeks and shallots
- spaghetti squash with butter and cumin
- chilled zucchini soup
What are you going to cook tonight? What does your plate look like? A large portion of protein with a small salad?
Most of us know we don’t eat nearly enough vegetables. Both in terms of quantity and in the variety of vegetables we eat. I talk to so many people who aspire to eat more types of vegetables, but they just aren’t sure how to prepare them. Not that they couldn’t figure it out…many of these same people have purchased cookbooks that focus entirely on vegetables or have clipped countless recipies of healthy dishes they hope to serve someday soon. The problem is, by the time we get home to prepare dinner the last thing we want to do is go hunt down that recipe and get the ingredients for a new vegetable dish. We stick with what we know by heart…a green salad, frozen corn or steamed broccoli. All of those are great choices, but you’ve probably been eating those same foods since you were a kid.
In the American diet vegetables tend to be an afterthought. Health experts recommend that we eat 5-9 servings of vegetables per day, but only 26.3% of Americans are getting 3 servings a day. We are increasingly busier and busier and demanding more of our minds and bodies, while at the same time feeding our bodies less and less of what it needs.
For the majority of Americans (who are not vegan or vegetarian) planning a meal involves choosing what meat to serve and then adding some sides to serve with it. The underlying principle here is that a meal without meat is not complete, however a meal without vegetables while not ideal, is acceptable. Fad diets such as Atkins have really skewed our thinking on exactly what constitutes a healthy meal. If we worried about how many servings of fruits and vegetables we get in a day as much as we think about how much protein we eat, we would all be eating a lot healthier.
While lots of cooks know how to make a great steak, or saute a nicely marinated chicken breast, but many fewer know how to apply the same care and technique into their vegetables. With a few basic knife skills, vegetables are easier to prepare than meat. There are fewer concerns about bacteria, salmonella and you don’t need to ensure it’s cooked to a certain temperature. Vegetables tend to respond very well to being prepared and cooked in advance and reheated just before serving.
In this series you will really get to know the foods you prepare, the way a restaurant chef would. In addition to great professional techniques and recipies, I’ll be talking about each vegetable in detail. What foods it pairs with, what vitamins and nutrients it contributes and what cooking methods preserve the most nutrients. In truly knowing them you will open yourself up to a world of cooking opportunities. You’ll be able to walk into your local market and pick out what sounds great and know in your head exactly how you want to prepare it. This is the first step in becoming an Iron Chef.
Just like you know your friends, which ones like to meet for coffee, which ones would rather go see a movie. You’ll get to know your friends in the produce section. How they like to be prepared, what times of year they taste the best. You will learn to make your diet healthier by increasing the variety of whole nutrients and foods without having to find the next new diet fad. You can learn to love your vegetables because they are amazing, not beause you are supposed to.
Join me on this journey and you’ll soon discover the freedom of being able to walk into the grocery store and feel inspired by the produce section. You’ll be able to pick up what catches your eye and plan a meal around it as you walk through the store. You won’t have to say to yourself, that looks interesting, but I don’t have a recipe. You’ll get to enjoy the satisfaction that you are eating healthy without having to commit to a rigid diet.
If you think you don’t really like vegetables, give me a chance. I used to think I didn’t like vegetables either. It turns out I just didn’t care for the soft texture of canned and frozen vegetables, but when I grew up I learned to prepare them the way I like them.