Vegetable Love

My favorite bartender once stated, “There’s a gin drink for everyone.”  Meaning, you might think you hate gin because you had a lousy hotel gin and tonic at your cousin’s wedding.  It tasted like Pine-sol smells, and you therefore declared yourself a gin hater.  But if you had something else, something balanced and lovely and less like industrial solvent, you might turn yourself around on the gin thing.

I feel the same way about vegetables.  All vegetables, but particularly the much-maligned ones, the Brussels sprouts and kale and beets of the world.  I adore these vegetables, and it saddens me to hear how people speak of them.  A dear friend once told me that beets taste like dirt!  Sure, some of these vegetables are a little more challenging, but come on!  Anyone could love a carrot – they’re sweet and crunchy and taste as good raw as they do cooked.  The real work, but the real joy, is in loving mini-cabbages that look like tiny green brains.

The reason, I think, that most people hate these vegetables is the same reason they hate the gin – poor preparation.  After all, most people cook them all pretty much the same way – some variation on boiled or steamed.  While that can be fantastic for a green bean, for the more challenging vegetables this treatment tends to showcase their worst attributes.  Take the Brussels sprout.  Since it is, essentially, a cabbage in miniature, boiling will make it mushy and smelly, overemphasizing the sulfur notes that plague all members of the cruciferous family.

My favorite preparation for sprouts comes from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. (As an aside, I’m a big fan of this and the original book, How to Cook Everything.  More on that in a future post.)   Basically, you cut the sprouts in half and place them cut side down in a pan of olive oil, then toss in some garlic, salt, and pepper.  After they start to cook, you throw the whole pan in the oven to roast for 20-30 minutes.

The resultant sprouts are crispy on the outside, with creamy, tender middles.  They taste of garlic and their own caramelized sugars, and they are divine.  If this preparation cannot convince you of the goodness of sprouts, you are a hard case indeed.

I plan to continue to highlight my favorite recipes for unpopular vegetables.  If you’d like more specific instructions, let me know – and tell me what you think!  If you have your own favorite recipes, I’d love to hear them as well – just drop a line in the comments.


13 responses to “Vegetable Love

  1. Yum! I’ll have to try this. Both The Goog and I enjoy sprouts, in fact I don’t think I’ve met a veggie I don’t like!

  2. You’ll have to get me to try these some day. About the only veggies I don’t like are lima beans, chickpeas, and Brussels sprouts so if you can get me to like them you’ve done a wonderful thing.

  3. You’ll have to get me to try those sometime. The only vegetables I don’t like are lima beans, chickpeas, and Brussels sprouts so if you can get me to like them then you’ve done a wonderful thing.

    • I think I could get you to like the sprouts! Beans are a bit tougher in that it depends why you don’t like them – is it taste or texture? For example, I really like chickpeas, but when I first tried them the texture skeeved me out a bit. Lima beans on the other hand – I don’t LOVE the flavor, but they are a great addition to soup!

  4. I long ago concluded that, much as I wish otherwise, I’m not a fan of brussel sprouts.

    OK, that’s not entirely true. I’m not a fan of frozen or canned sprouts, which should come as no surprise. But when fresh, I can only eat the smallest ones. The big ones are just too bitter for me, wheras the teeny ones are divine. This does cause a problem however, as the smaller ones are more time-consuming to prepare in the above manner, so I typically just quick steam them before giving them a light bath in some butter and garlic.

    • I’m not gonna lie – I dig a little bitterness at times. But I haven’t really noticed it in my sprouts done this way…

      As for the frozen/canned thing, I almost made this post twice as long by getting into that whole thing with me and peas, but decided to save it for another day!

  5. Can you make me like turnips? That would be quite a feat.

    • How have you had them prepared, and what is it that you dislike about them?

      Perhaps this blog needs a regular segment called “Vegetable Therapy” where you tell me your vegetable aversions and I attempt to cure them.

      • I’ve only ever had them boiled in something. Either soup, or with corned beef. There is also this other orange root vegetable I can’t stand. I wonder is that is a turnip too? Not sure.

        It’s strange because I love carrots and parsnips cause they are sweet and don’t over power the other food.

        I LOVE the idea of “vegetable therapy.” If you have the time, I say do it!

      • theredmenaceeats

        It’s probably rutabaga, which is a specific kind of turnip. Since I’ve already addressed Garth’s Brussels sprout aversion in the blog (though not yet in life, as I don’t think he will cook his own sprouts) I guess the next segment of Vegetable Therapy will be turnip, followed by cauliflower. If anyone else has or knows someone with a veggie hatred, please let me know!

  6. Cauliflower. I’ll eat it but when I see it I always think, well there’s a big task ahead here…unless I cook it and blend it into a cream soup with about a cup of grated cheese, but that feels like cheating…

  7. Beans.

    I love chickpeas/garbanzos in every preparation, even raw and on salads; and I’m slowly learning to love black beans under my boy’s tutelage. But I came from a household where veggies = potatoes, iceburg lettuce, tomatoes. Period. I’d never even had a bell pepper till college! And I never ate mushrooms, artichokes, broccoli, squash, etc. until my boyfriend’s cooking came along and changed my life.

    But baked beans, pinto beans, refried beans: yuck! My formative experience was giant industrial cans in my veggie co-op dorm’s foodservice kitchen that looked and smelled like rotten dogfood. On burrito nights, I melted cheese on a pile of rice and called it dinner. Teach me to love that mushy legume!!

    • theredmenaceeats

      Oh man, I do love beans! And they don’t have to be mushy. If you/the boy doesn’t own Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, you should take a gander from the library. It’s a great source of interesting, beyond the basics bean recipes. I will add it to the list of vegetables to address in future posts – any particular bean you dislike? (I’m rediscovering baked myself – I think homemade might be the ticket)

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