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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Eat Your (Tasty) Vegetables

Vegetables. jpgWhen was the last time a platter of vegetables elicited excitement and joy when hitting the dinner table? A steaming, still sizzling steak is much more likely to be greeted with oohs and aahs than equally fragrant roasted vegetables – a shame really, as those vegetables, with their need to be peeled, chopped, in other words, to be touched and handled over the minutes it takes to ready them to cook, offer a much greater reward than simply placing a pre-cut, shrink-wrapped piece of meat on a grill.

 

The nutritional rewards of a vegetable-heavy diet are news to no one, yet they’re so often poorly represented on dinner plates, and few would think of a meal of nothing but vegetables. Again, a shame. But perhaps the lack of vegetables at the dinner table is due to the amount of time needed with knife in hand at a cutting board. But this time can produce enough for several meals and keep well for days and the cooking methods of blanching, sauteing or roasting could not be simpler. Blanch vegetables in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cooking only until just tender and brightened in color–about two to three minutes for most vegetables. Don’t crowd the pot as this will drop the temperature in the water too much and will lengthen the cooking process. Salt is a key component in this process. The blanching water should taste as salty as the sea–salt helps maintain the nutritional value as well as brighten and retain the color of what is being cooked. If the vegetables are not to be eaten at that time, shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. When completely cooled, drain them well. They can be quickly reheated over medium high heat, adding minced garlic and shallots, a splash of white wine, butter, salt and pepper and fresh herbs.

 

Roasting vegetables deepens their flavors, bringing out their sweetness and the flavor of the earth they naturally carry. Cutting the vegetables into uniformly sized pieces ensures even cooking and lightly coating with olive oil will help develop that characteristic golden brown color. Season the vegetables with more than just salt and pepper. Try using dry herbs, chile flake or whole garlic cloves (crushed but unpeeled to prevent burning). Be sure to roast different kinds of vegetables on separate baking sheets due to different cooking times, and allow plenty of room between pieces, preferably placing cut side down, so that the pieces roast rather than steam.

 

Roast Vegetables with Cauliflower Puree

 

1 head cauliflower

2 pounds small carrots

1 bunch green onions

1 bulb fennel

1 medium onion

½ cup greek yogurt

Mixed fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, thyme, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Trim the cauliflower into pieces approximately one inch in size. Reserve the core, except for the toughest of pieces. Place the core in a sauce pot, along with ¼ of the onion, two cloves garlic, a good pinch of salt and cover with water. Cook at a simmer until the cauliflower core is tender. Drain the liquid and allow to cool completely.

 

Cut the carrots in half lengthwise, cutting into two if too long. Core the fennel, leaving just enough of it to prevent the layers from separating. Cut in half, and slice ¼” thick. Cut the remaining onion similarly. Trim the tops and bottoms of the green onions. Season each vegetable separately, lightly coating with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and a sprinkle of the dry thyme. Place in a baking sheet, and roast at 350°F until tender. The carrots and cauliflower florets will have longer cooking times, followed by the fennel, with the onions being the shortest, as they are the most tender.

 

Once the cauliflower core is completely cool, puree in a food processor along with the Greek yogurt, adding salt to taste, as well as the finely chopped mixed herbs.

 

To serve, place a dollop of the cauliflower puree on a plate, topping with the mixed cooked vegetables. Add a salad of baby greens lightly dressed with lemon or champagne vinegar and olive oil as a fresh side.

 

 

 

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