Veggie Smarts

Vegetables get no respect!  If you’re like I used to be, the vegetable side dish to an entree is often an after-thought.  We drag some sad little bag out of the freezer or open a can of mushy veggies, stir in a little salt and pepper and call it serving the family a balanced diet.  Ha!  No wonder the kids don’t eat it!  We are also guilty in the South of absolutely cooking the crap out of vegetables so they don’t have much flavor or nutrients left.  One of my chef instructors jokingly said that the only reason we Southern women even cook vegetables is to have a vehicle for our bacon and salt pork!  Perhaps it’s not that bad, but I’ve been making a real effort at giving those veggies a little TLC and spending as much time thinking of creative and delicious ways to prepare veggie sides as I do the meat entree.  Here are some tips for delicious veggies:

  • When cooking potatoes, cut them into uniform pieces and start them in cold salted water so they cook evenly.
  • When cooking green vegetables, you want to cook them as quickly as possible so as to preserve color and nutrients.  Start them in boiling salted water and never cover them when cooking.  Covering traps the plant enzymes and causes the vegetables to turn a drab color and perhaps have an unpleasant odor.
  • If you want to prepare fresh veggies at mealtime in a flash, pre-cook veggies (not potatoes) by blanching them in boiling water and then shocking them in ice water.  At mealtime, you can finish cooking them in boiling water or (my favorite) saute the veggies in olive oil with salt/pepper and other seasonings.  Then, deglaze the pan with a little broth and add some butter to make a light sauce.
  • To make glazed veggies, barely cover with water and boil with some sugar and butter until water is almost evaporated.
  • Steaming is one of the quickest and most nutritious ways to cook vegetables.

Here’s a recipe I found for some show-stopper veggies.  The crisp-tender texture is key and the garlic/balsamic flavor additions will surely get your family’s attention.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

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