Saturday, December 01, 2007

Eat Yer Veggies

This post at Pandagon inspired me to try to include more fresh produce in my diet. I really don't have any excuse not to, especially considering the challenges so many people face in getting any kind of decent food at all. (Uncharacteristically, I jumped into the fray at the Pandagon post close to the end of the comments. Feel free to go over there and back me up or tell me I'm full of it.)

However, I'm always in need of tasty, uncomplicated vegetable recipes. I hope you'll post your favorites in the comments. In the spirit of reciprocity, I'll share some of mine here.

Garlicky Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil
(from Cooking Light)

We made this last summer with tomatoes and basil from our back yard garden. It was just heaven.

3 tbsp. extravirgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups (about 2 lbs.) chopped plum tomatoes (We just used a hodge podge of tomatoes since we grew a couple different kinds.)
6 cups (about 12 oz. uncooked pasta) hot cooked campanella (or other twisty-ish shape of pasta)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic; saute 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes; cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Add pasta, basil, salt, and pepper, tossing gently to combine. Serves 6.

The recipe also calls for 1/4 cup (1 oz.) of grated fresh Parmesan cheese to be added to the tomatoes along with the pasta, basil, salt, and pepper, but I like to cook vegan whenever possible. I certainly didn't miss the cheese.

Sesame Kale

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound kale (about bunch)
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Salt and pepper if desired

Mince the garlic cloves. Wash the kale and shake it over the sink. It should remain a little wet. Remove and discard the stems from the kale and tear it into bite-size pieces. Save the stems for another use, such as vegetable stock.

Heat the sesame seed oil in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic to the hot oil and saute for about 20 seconds. Add the kale and water to the garlic and oil, and cover the skillet.

After 1 minute, stir the kale, then re-cover. After 1-2 more minutes, when the kale is wilted, stir in the soy sauce and sesame seeds. If desired, add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Sweet and Sour Greens

My favorites for this recipe are beet greens or chard. You could also use collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, or kale. Just be sure to adjust your cooking time depending on how tough your greens are and how tender you prefer them.

1 pound greens
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup of water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and remove any heavy stems. Tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a 3 qt saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic.

Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Continue cooking until mixture boils.

Add greens, reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or more depending on desired tenderness of greens. Stir in vinegar. Serves 2-4 depending on how much you like greens.

(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

Of course a major reason why so many people don't include fresh produce in their meals is lack of access. Poor urban neighborhoods may not have any grocery stores selling produce, so people have to find transportation to shop for fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce is too expensive for tight budgets to bear. Also, some people don't have the capacity to store perishable items.

Often, I'm just too lazy to plan for meals, so I've come up with a few recipes that require few or no perishable items, but still feature plenty of vegetables.

(The following recipes are a little sketchier than the ones above because I mostly made them up as I went along. I'll try to include all the relevant details, but just let me know if I left out anything vital.)

Tomato Florentine Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth (I usually use a powdered mix)
2 can diced tomatoes, undrained (I use salt free)
10 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp marjoram

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrot, and saute until soft. Add garlic, and stir for 30 seconds.

Add broth, tomatoes, spinach, beans, and spices. Simmer 15 minutes. Salt to taste.

Lemony Spinach and Brown Rice

2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cooked brown rice (I use instant, prepared according to directions on package)
10 oz. package of frozen spinach, cooked according to directions on package
3/4 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp dill
1 can mushrooms, drained

Saute the garlic over medium heat in the olive oil for 30-60 seconds. Then mix all the other ingredients together. Stir for a few minutes until everything is well mixed and heated through.

Super Easy Vegetable Soup

Open a bunch of canned vegetables. Pour them in a pot. Heat them up. Add some salt and pepper.

My usual mixture includes

(don't drain the following)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 can French cut green beans
1 can carrots
1 can mushrooms
1 can corn (maybe)

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
A handful of whole wheat macaroni
1 tbsp vegetable broth powder

As much water as necessary to create the desired degree of soupiness.

Season with dill, dried basil, black pepper, garlic salt. Add a shot of lemon juice if you have it.

If you try any of these recipes, I hope you'll let me know how they turn out. Also, please share your favorite veggie recipes.


Elaine Vigneault said...

Want more simple veggie recipes? Try and the blogs listed in the blogroll. Also consider and and

UnrulyDuckling said...

Thank you so much for all the suggestions! I see many hours of recipe perusal in my future.

pizzadiavola said...

For cooking veggies, I usually go for the simpler is better approach: saut e a clove of minced garlic in olive oil until it begins to smell and turn golden (but before it burns), then dump in veggies and saute briefly until they wilt (leafy greens) or are tender. Remove from heat and squirt with a bit of lemon juice or toss with balsamic vinegar. Works with green beans; dark, leafy greens; peas; and probably other vegetables, too.