Great veggie variety isn't hard at all

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A bromide of dieting is that you should eat your vegetables first, presumably so that if anything happens — becoming full or nuclear war, whichever comes first — you will have eaten the most healthful portion of the meal.

I don’t follow that bromide, but I do eat my vegetables first. I find that without thinking, I gravitate to them because they are the best tasting things on my menu. Colors, textures, natural sweetness, and more.

Attraction, not promotion.

Since that’s not everyone’s experience, it was suggested to me recently that I write down what makes my vegetables palatable, not only to me but to others. My sister-in-law, who grew up on a farm and is as sterling as example of homespun modernity as I know, raves about my eggplant, for example. Her daughter, who self-identified for years as the vegetarian who didn’t like vegetables, looks forward to my veggies.

Still, they are not fancy — I can’t be bothered, and I’m just not that skilled. Fresh foods, prepared simply, with enough variation to forestall boredom. To address especially that last point, I offer these categories: Vegetable, heat source, heat intensity, flavorings. (Please keep in mind: these are the guides I go by, but I don’t imply they are complete. As much as I present here, there's a lot more to know.)

1) The veggie itself. If you like only, say, carrots, then yes, you’re going to get bored with the veggie portion of your plate soon enough, no matter what you do. There are dozens of veggies in the store, and I urge you to use ‘em all, unless you know for sure you don’t like them. And even then, give them another chance: In my book, I used Brussels sprouts to personify the unworthy veggie, but to my surprise, I’ve become a lover (roasted, not steamed. Blechh.). I recommend you also check out turnips, delicata squash, spaghetti squash, most of the greens (collards, chard, and especially kale, plus others). I used to have contempt for them, but now I’ve investigated.

2) Heat source: You can steam, boil, saute, broil, grill, and especially, roast. Roasted carrots taste — and feel — different than, say, steamed. So you could still have impressive variety, even if you ate only carrots. (But, see no. 1.) And, don't forget raw, either.

3) Heat intensity: Generally, I favor high heat. Done correctly, you get some browned flavor on the outside without getting mushy on the inside. Steaming, of course, is essentially done at one temp.

I'm going to pick up with the rest of this tomorrow, because 800-words-plus is more than blog readers will put up with in one sitting — even for prose as entertaining and informative as this. Please do come back — if you read this far, you won't want to miss the flavorings section.


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