Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Green

Not actually an ode to my beloved Kermit, but a response to a question from my friend Denzel. What can I do with vegetables? Seems like a nice break from superficial quizzes and deep thoughts. And it's a question I've gotten from a couple of guys lately, so here we go.

Denzel's particular question was what he could do other than frying or boiling the veggies. In this question Denzel shows that he's not from the South. Someone from the South would never ask what they could do besides frying.

A couple of basic thoughts:

Steaming - Take a pot, put an empty tuna can in the bottom, then take a disposable aluminum pie plate, poke a bunch of holes in it and set it on top of the tuna can. Put water in the bottom of the pot (don't fill over the tuna can) and get it boiling. Put the veggies in the pie plate, put a cover on the pot and let it do it's thing. This is a little boring. If you want to spice it up, you can add things to the water to lightly flavor the veggies. For example - garlic.

Roasting - Turn up the oven to a fairly high heat (say 425). Take your veggies and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Toss them in a little olive oil. You can also add some lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flake or other flavoring agents. Put them in the oven. Keep an eye on them. This doesn't take a lot of time. I love asparagus and potatoes done this way.

- Okay, it's not actually a technique, but it is a non-frying/boiling way to handle veggies. Put some veggies in a pot, when they are partially cooked put in a liquid (chicken broth for more flavor, water for less) and some spices). Let it cook a little longer. When the veggies are cooked through, dump the whole thing in a blender and voila - soup.

Stir frying - Yes, it does have the word frying it in, but it's not the same thing. Put a little high heat oil (peanut, canola or soy) in a wok and crank the heat. Drop in a drop of water. If it jumps out again, it's hot enough. Dump in the veggies (starting with what takes the longest to cook) and keep stirring. This method will sear the veggies, producing a nice brown and caramelized exterior, while keeping crispness inside. You can pour in a sauce at the end if you'd like to.

Au gratin - It's French for putting things in butter and cheese and cooking them. May negate all the positive qualities of your veggies.

Raw - Again, not exactly a cooking method, but it's a nice change of pace. Just cut up the vegetables and eat them. This doesn't work particularly well with things like eggplant, but I find most veggies better raw. Or, you can dump them in a juicer. If you happen to be storkbryght.

Barbeque - Since these questions seem to mostly come from guys, it seems only fair to give an option that involves fire. You can get barbeque woks all over the place now. Same idea as the stir fry instructions. You can also stick some veggies in a tin foil pouch with some butter.

Important things to remember....
- Salt your veggies. It brings out their flavor.
- Add other complimentary flavors. Garlic, citrus, herbs, spices, etc.
- Experiment. It may not be good, but it won't be dull.
- Watch what you like in restaurants.

My favorite site for recipes is www.foodtv.com. It's got a great recipe finder at the top and things are rated for difficulty and yumminess.


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