I’ve found that the best way to keep yourself on track is to plan ahead. If you have a variety of fresh produce in your kitchen ready to sauté, grill, roast, braise, stir-fry, or chop into a salad, you will be one step ahead. Some people don’t appreciate a good vegetable when they see one on their plate, and it can be difficult to get them to eat it. Vegetables taste so much better when properly cooked! Mastering these simple preparation methods will help you create a healthy and delicious dish that you and your family will love any night.
Roasting. This is my favorite way of preparing vegetables. Cooking in the oven is easy since it’s a mostly hands-off cooking method once the vegetables are prepared. Plus the high-temperature method creates a caramelized, intensified flavor that will turn any non-veggie lover into a fan. All you need is a heavy-duty sheet pan, parchment paper, and a hot oven. Make sure the pan is large enough to accommodate all your vegetables so they are not too crammed, which would result in steaming and prevent them from browning and caramelizing. Cut vegetables into small, uniform pieces so they will cook quickly at the same rate.
Braising. You might know braising as a method for slow-cooking tougher cuts of meats. It can also be used for vegetables to brown and deepen the flavor as well as simmer and tenderize. With a fraction of the time it takes to braise meats, sear your veggies in a sauté pan, then add a small amount of liquid to achieve rich-flavored, perfectly cooked veggies with a light sauce. Browning creates flavorful brown bits that add a lot of flavor to the dish. Cut veggies into medium to small pieces to cook evenly and quickly. Carrots, green beans, and asparagus can be left as sticks. Make sure they all fit in one layer in pan so they get a chance to brown. Other vegetables good for this method are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips, or potatoes.
Sautéing. Sautéing vegetables is simply using a pan over high heat to brown the veggies and cook while leaving a nice texture. Essential in this process is making sure your pan is hot enough and not overcrowding the pan. The heat will give a caramelized flavor, while not overcrowding will avoid steaming veggies instead of browning them. Olive oil is great for sautéing. Butter or butter substitute adds great flavor to the veggies but can burn over high heat. Mixing the two will give the best results. It’s a quick cooking method great for many kinds of vegetables.
Stir-frying. Using a stir-fry pan is the best way to get stir-fried perfect results, since the wide bowl has plenty of room to stir and toss the vegetables and every piece can be exposed to heat evenly. It browns and steams at the same time. Create flat surfaces by cutting vegetables to maximize surface area for browning. Turn heat up once veggies are in the pan, since adding them drops the temperature. Use canola, peanut, or grapeseed oil, which have higher smoking points. Remove pan from heat right after you add sauce ingredients so as not to burn them.
Grilling. Grilling is always good, not only in the summer or when the power goes out in your home. It’s easy, fast, and involves minimal cleanup. Gas grills have a moister heat that is gentler on veggies. Know your grill, where the hot spots are, and how long it takes to create grill marks. Every grill is different, so recipes might need to be adjusted. Gas grills work best when covered to cook food evenly. Make sure you have a good set of tongs and a grill basket for smaller veggies. Cut veggies thin and long so they don’t fall through grates but cook in the time it takes to brown both sides. Make sure they are well coated in oil to carry heat around and through the veggies. Wrap in foil after grilling to finish off cooking and create a tender result. v
Sautéed Carrots With Warm Olive-And-Mint Dressing
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. red-wine vinegar
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into ¼” sticks
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. toasted almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
Combine 2 teaspoons of olive oil, red-wine vinegar, mustard, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots and ½ teaspoon salt. Toss well. Turn up heat to medium-high and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until carrots are nicely browned on one side and a little softened, 10–12 minutes. Add garlic, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and carefully add vinegar mixture, stirring quickly. Add olives and stir gently to combine. Add half of the mint and mix. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with remaining mint and almonds.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.