Wednesday, February 2, 2011

KISS Boring Veggies Goodbye

Remember the days when veggies were a mere afterthought?  Just something that you ate to remain regular, to keep your parents happy, or to set a good example for your kids?  How about those long ago days when restaurants served the same sides for every entree?   (And it was nearly always a plate of overcooked greens and a scoop of starch.) Thankfully, like big hair, pleated pants and men in platform boots, that trend is over.

Veggies have taken, well, if not center stage at least a strong supporting role.  

Imagine Jerry McGuire without Cuba Gooding.  My Cousin Vinny without Marisa Tomei.  Ghost without Whoopi.  "I'd like to thank the Academy...."  Sorry, movies on the brain....

With the addition of cumin seeds, cauliflower becomes rather sublime.  Ditto brussels sprouts when doused with fennel.  Never fear, we are not preaching vegetarianism.  We are tried and true omnivores.  No, we are here today to discuss ways to make vegetables taste really, really good.  Honest.

Even people who regularly eschew the green stuff freely admit to enjoying these dishes.  And with the reputation of spices--ahem--spicing things up, you may be glad you ate your health-giving veggies in case you need some extra energy later on. 

Here are two surefire veggie winners; you can secure all necessary ingredients at the Market, of course:

Cumin Cauliflower

Serves 4-6
Prep time:  5 minutes
Cooking time:  10 minutes

1 large head cauliflower, washed and cut into bite sized florets
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and add seeds and salt.  Wait until seeds begin to sizzle and add cauliflower.  Stir thoroughly, ensuring that all florets are dappled with cumin seeds.  Lower heat, and cook, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is cooked through, approx 10 minutes.  NOTE:  This recipe can be replicated with virtually any vegetable:  broccoli, peas, carrots, potatoes, or a combo of any or all is wonderful!  This is a traditional Indian preparation, but it is great with any cuisine.

Brussels Sprouts and Fennel
Nutty veggies like cauliflower and brussels become dazzling dishes once paired with fennel seed.  But fennel is one of those spices you either love, or loathe.  I love their aniseed crunch, whereas Keri wrinkles her nose in disdain at the idea...

Tasted this unforgettable combo at a friend's house last week, and went back 3 times for a top up

Prep time: 20 mins      
Cook time: 5 mins
Serves 4-6 as a side.

(Recipe from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, by Peter Berley)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb brussel sprouts, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp water
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Cider vinegar and black pepper to taste

1. Warm the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds and toast for 1 minute.
2. Add the brussel sprouts, water, and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. After 5 minutes, uncover and toss with cider vinegar and pepper to taste. Serve hot.


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