There is something about the various colors of vegetables that I find so beautiful. Artists for centuries have been painting their curves, their textures, their light. Vegetables are among the most appealing sights to me. It fuels my gardening. It fuels my diet.
I am still surprised when people tell me that they, or their spouse, or their children do not eat vegetables. Missing out on that satisfying crunch, the way the savory slices gather in sauce and spices, the bright colors creating a mesmerizing palette on the dinner table.
I will never forget when my friend, Nancy, and I were running our market booth and two women came over and pointed at green, frilly leaves and asked, “What’s that?” We stared at them for a minute. “Lettuce,” we replied. “What do you do with it?” they inquired.
So, perhaps folks do not know what to do with vegetables. Here are some ideas to easily incorporate lots of glorious colors, textures, and flavors into your meals. Listen, if mama is cooking, the folks around the table are going to eat it. We raised our children vegetarian. Their primary diet was vegetables! They never turned their nose up because they were never given an option. That goes for men too. No one got their own meals. There were no chicken nuggets and fries for the kids while we ate crisp slices of eggplant with spaghetti. The kids (and this goes for how school lunches should be too) should eat the same fabulous food as adults. That is how they learn to love vegetables.
With that, let’s get cooking!
First buy or grow lots of beautiful, organic produce. Whatever appeals to you or interests you. Now think of a theme.
If you want to go Asian- chop maybe five different vegetables (like cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, and red pepper) and saute them with tamari, scallion oil, a touch of orange juice, and serve topped with peanuts or cashews and rice.
If you want to go Italian- slice eggplant real thin and bread in flour, non-dairy milk, then panko and fry or bake. Put salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and oregano in the flour and panko mixtures. Make your own sauce by sauteing onions and garlic, then add in diced tomatoes, and simmer with dried basil, oregano, a touch of thyme and paprika, a dash of wine, then top with basil as you add it to the pasta. Or just pick out a great pasta sauce.
Pizza night- Layer pizza sauce on thin pizza dough (15 minutes to make tops). Layer on (or for more depth, saute first in olive oil) oyster or lobster mushrooms (these aren’t your slimy canned bit, they taste like seafood), red and green peppers, black olives, and diced eggplant and zucchini. Top with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, maybe a bit of truffle salt and a swirl of truffle oil. Bake.
Maybe you want Mexican food tonight- How about sauteed red and green peppers and onions in mini-tacos. Maybe add diced, roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or zucchini. Pinto beans with green chilies. Top with salsa (which is a vegetable), guacamole (best vegetable), lettuce, tomato, and a creamy vegan cashew queso (5 minutes to make). Serve with a margarita (not a vegetable, sadly).
Spanish calls for paella with its slow cooked rice, savory seasonings like garlic and paprika, and lots of finely diced vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale.
Indian food is quite easy with its various curries and sauces using any vegetable but especially lentils, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.
Create a hash by sauteing or baking onion, garlic, bright colored peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes. You can add in crushed up tofu colored with turmeric for scrambled eggs. If you have farm fresh eggs from happy chickens, you can throw all the vegetables you have into a cast iron pan, saute, then add eggs to make a frittata.
Soups are always comforting and easy to put together. With most meals start with a sofrito. A sofrito is a blend of onion, garlic, celery, and carrots slowly sauteed in olive oil. Then add diced veggies. Any and all combinations. Then add spices depending on what theme you chose. Then add rich vegetable broth or bouillon. At the end you could add a bit of cashew cream or almond milk for creaminess. Add lots of beans. Use an immersion blender to hide the Brussels sprouts if need be.
A few tips:
Garlic should go in everything!
Top dishes with toasted pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or walnuts.
Add beans, lentils, or dried peas.
Serve with pasta, big hunks of warm Italian bread and olive oil, rice, cooked rye, barley, or quinoa or homemade croutons.
Roasted vegetables cooked with rosemary, thyme, and garlic increase flavor and are wonderful served with bread and salad.
Top dishes with a drizzle of great olive oil or flavored olive oil.
A touch of sugar balances acidity in tomatoes.
Spices, spices, spices. Layer flavors as you cook.
Put on some music (preferably Andrea Bocelli), pour a glass of wine, put your apron on, and enjoy cooking. Vegetarian food takes half the time to prepare and is real easy on the wallet. Antioxidants and nutrients kill disease and make healthy kids and hubbies. And vegetables taste great! Bon Appetit!