For anyone who has been watching “Food Revolution” you will understand where i’m coming from. During one episode Jamie Oliver was challenged by the management of one of the schools he was at when he produced a seven vegetable stir fry with chicken and was told that it didn’t have enough vegetables in it. As an alternative the meal provided by the school that day which fit USDA guidelines was a chicken sandwich on a white bun with french fries. The vegetable quota in this case was met by, you guessed it, french fries. Now theoretically potatoes fall under the vegetable category, but let’s be realistic here, starchy, greasy french fries aren’t what I would consider a “health food.” Sure they are tasty and a special treat now and again, but let’s not fool ourselves into believing we are doing something good for ourselves by eating fries instead of other colorful veggies.
There is a critical disjoint between what we perceive to be healthy for us and what actually is. Quantity is sought after far before quality and generally that quantity is achieved through foods that are mostly fried and white or golden brown in color. Perhaps because people haven’t been exposed to vegetables or perhaps because they don’t know how to cook them, there seems to be a large number of people who have serious issues with eating their vegetables. I have heard numerous times that if it is green I won’t touch it from guests or students in my cooking classes. I usually take it as a challenge and then weasle the veggies in on them. Most of the time they are surprised when they actually like them because I very rarely simply steam a vegetable or cover it with Velveeta, another topic I won’t cover here.
Learning to cook vegetables is probably the single best thing you can do not only for your health, but your taste buds. Take the opportunity of the coming of spring and the advent of fresh veggies to make yourself a promise. Promise to try something new each week. Whether it’s parsnips or turnips or eggplant, just give it a shot. I promise not only will you not be disappointed, your body will thank you. Here are just a couple suggestions of my favorite veggies to eat. Keep in mind the best ways to cook veggies are to roast them or saute them lightly in olive oil. Not only will you maintain texture but the flavor of the vegetables will be naturally highlighted.
Roasted Asparagus with Freshly Grated Parmesan and Balsamic Reduction
Yields: 4-6 Servings
1 lb Asparagus, Trimmed
2 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
2 Tbl Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbl Balsamic Reduction
For the balsamic reduction, place the contents of a bottle of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Make sure you read your labels. Not all balsamic vinegars are actually balsamic vinegar but rather wine vinegars that are flavored and dyed to be imposters. Use the real deal here. Bring to a boil and continue to simmer over medium heat until the liquid has evaporated by almost 2/3, leaving a thick syrup behind. This can be kept in a squirt bottle at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
To trim the asparagus, hold each end of the asparagus and gently snap where the asparagus naturally breaks. Repeat with all the remaining asparagus.
Place the aspragus on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat with your hands and spread out in a single layer on your baking sheet. Using a micro-plane, grate a thin layer of parmesan onto the asparagus. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 15 mins. Place onto a serving dish and immediately drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve hot.
Yields: 4-6 Servings
3-4 Japanese Eggplants, Sliced 1/4″ thick
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
Place eggplant slices in a single layer onto paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and cover with more paper towels. Allow to sit for approx. 1 hr to pull out the moisture of the eggplant. Pat dry. Fill a saute pan approx. 1/4 full with olive oil and heat over medium high. Fry eggplant in batches until golden brown and crispy, approx. 3-4 mins per side. Remove to paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with freshly minced garlic.