Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s still hard to get in those daily servings of veggies, especially when getting in veggies means a side of steamed broccoli. No offense to steamed broccoli, which is lovely and light on occasion, but sometimes you need a little something extra to spruce up those sides and brighten your everyday meals. Cooking at home is definitely better for you, and you don’t need a culinary degree to make your veggies more delectable. Take a page out of the gourmet book, and add some elements of preparation and flavor to make your vegetables taste richer and, well, actually crave-worthy instead of just necessary.
Roast Your Roots
This approach is tried-and-true: root vegetables take on a soft-on-the-inside, crispy-and-caramelized-on-the-outside finish when you roast them in the oven, and that’s sure to make you enjoy them a lot more than just steaming your boiling them. Try chopping them up and nestling them in a pan with a chicken, then roast it all for about one and a half hours at 350 degrees. Or let the vegetables sing by themselves in the age-old classic dish (that happened to inspire the not-so-old film), ratatouille.
Low and Slow
Do like New York’s vegetable-obsessed queen Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy, and treat your vegetables with an innovative spirit. Make a dehydrated treat out of your vegetables, like beets, by putting slices on a baking sheet in the oven with the door slightly open, at the lowest temperature. Or, reduce puree them on the stove, and spread onto a baking sheet. The result is a lot like fruit leather, so you can pop veggie treats as a snack or even guilt-free, vitamin-packed dessert.
Blended and Balanced
Go ahead and boil your veggies, but instead of just leaving it there, follow up the boil by adding some butter and complimentary spices, and then pureeing it all up! A silky puree is the perfect backdrop for a greater dish. Try something sophisticated that you might find in a restaurant, like sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem artichoke) puree, often paired with scallops or fish. Another great combination is carrot, parsnip and sweet potato. Make it more mature by adding a spoonful of horseradish, or hazelnut oil.
Naughty Tastes Nice
If you’re building a healthy plate full of vegetables and protein, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a few “splurgier” ingredients into the mix as finishing touches to just add a bit of flavor to your otherwise nutritious meal. Dress up your vegetables with delicious flavor-packed fats, like a sprinkle of truffle oil, parmesan cheese or even crispy bacon bits (lardons if you want to get really fancy). But don’t overdo it – a light hand is really all you need to make the earthy and sometimes bitter flavors of vegetables shine. A classic combo? Roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy lardons.
Build a Masterpiece
Make the vegetable the main event like Tyler Gugliotta of Barran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach, California, who builds main courses around vegetables that are in season. Chef Gugliotta caramelizes carrots and plates them with three different sauces, as well as adds some elements of texture and contrast. He chooses to roast grill and boil rainbow carrots, and uses carrot juice to make a carrot caramel, and sherry vinegar to offset the sweetness. So take a cue from the pro and try putting your own spin on the technique.