The Lean Green Bean

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Venturing Into Vegetables

This year I made a promise to myself that I would try some new slowly but surely I've been venturing deeper into the vegetable world. Over our Christmas vacation, I tried baby bok choy. Better, in my opinion, than regular bok choy because I love anything miniature :) The result? Not bad. Just roughly chop, saute with some oil and garlic, maybe a dash of soy sauce and enjoy as a side dish.

In April, when I started my no-meat experiment, one of the first vegetarian recipes I made was a Swiss chard, white bean and sweet potato soup. Before I found the recipe, I had no idea what Swiss chard even looked like, let alone that the stems come in a rainbow of colors. The result? Excellent! It's pretty much interchangeable  with spinach so I've been putting in soups, pasta dishes, anywhere I would typically throw in some baby spinach. I would recommend  cooking though, as opposed to just having a swiss chard salad!

Another early spring adventure was asparagus. Everyone in my family loves it roasted and topped with balsamic vinegar. I hadn't eaten any in a while. The result? Good. I still can't stand it if it's mushy, but lightly roasted so it still has a little crunch to it and topped with some good balsamic vinegar it tastes pretty good.

The summer farmer's market sparked adventures with beets and eggplant. There's something about eggplant that draws me to it every time..maybe the color, it just looks so pretty. The result? Pretty good. I tried a lasagna with eggplant "noodles" and made a grilled eggplant and roasted bell pepper brushchetta that was pretty darn tasty.

No real recipe for this one...just sliced a multigrain baguette, brushed with olive oil, rubbed a clove of garlic over the slices and toasted them in the oven. Then I thinly sliced the eggplant, sprinkled it with salt and let it drain in a ...colander for 30 min or so (draws out some of the bitterness), then rinsed off the salt, patted dry, brushed lightly with oil and seasoned (i used black pepper and Mccormicks grill seasoning), put them on the grill for a couple minutes each side. If you slice them thin enough you don't really have to cook them too long, just get the grill marks and let them soften a bit. I roasted the pepper in the oven until it was charred and peeled off the skin. then just cut the eggplant and pepper into pieces to match the baguette slice size, top with eggplant, pepper, tomato slices and fresh mozzarella...then i put them in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese!
I diced up the leftover grilled eggplant and threw it into my spaghetti sauce the next night, and also put diced eggplant in my vegetable tacos. My next effort is going to be  Eggplant Parmesan!

While my parents were visiting in July, we bought some beets at the farmers market. I'm not certain I'd ever had a beet before then but my parents eat them all the of my dad's favorite vegetables. The result? Not bad. My dad orders the beet salad pretty much anywhere that has it when we go out to eat. I'm not sure I'd ever go that far...but they weren't bad. Just cut off the greens (you can cook those too!), wrap them in foil and into the oven they go for an hour or so. Let them cool enough to touch, peel the skin off and slice them. I'm on the hunt for a good beet recipe to get my in-laws to try beets again. I'll keep you posted (haha, no pun intended). 

We had a discussion this past weekend about trying new vegetables and they have agreed to try beets again. So in the spirit of trying new vegetables, I decided to challenge myself again and take on one of my biggest vegetable enemies: Brussels sprouts. Another of my dad's favorite vegetables (are we seeing a trend here?). Ever since I can remember these have been  his favorite vegetable. My mom used to just make a little dish of plain, steamed sprouts just for him at our dinners growing up. No one else  in the family would eat them. I'm not quite that brave...but I passed some in the grocery store and decided to give it a whirl. I made mine roasted with olive oil, a little bit of bacon, salt and pepper. The result? Average. Still not my favorite vegetable but to quote my husband, "I don't find them as repulsive as I used to." Part of the problem was that I roasted them a little too long so they were right on the edge of being mushy. Other than that, they were edible, but I don't think I'll be buying them again anytime soon.

To try them yourself:

Cut the stem off the brussels sprouts and peel off any yucky-looking outer leaves. 

Halve or quarter them and put them on a jelly roll pan with some chopped bacon (I use turkey bacon), drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper

Roast at 425 for 20 minutes or so and then check on them.

Don't let them get too mushy! Stir occasionally to spread the bacon and other seasonings around.

I challenge all of you to try a new vegetable! Pick one out at a the store that looks interesting and you've never tried  before, or better yet, try one that you hated 10 years ago and haven't touched since then. Find yourself a recipe that sounds good and give it a never know! 


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