Vegetables are one of my favorite foods. I know, that’s very generic – there are a lot of different veggies out there. But so few people actually enjoy eating vegetables that I think it’s worth noting.
If you’re used to the canned, flaccid veggies, or the steamed (or boiled) to death variety, you’re not actually eating good vegetables. My mother couldn’t cook to save her life, and my father was a meat-and-potatoes type of man, so we didn’t eat a ton of vegetables in my house as a kid.
It wasn’t until adulthood I discovered just how great a piece of oven roasted broccoli could be.
Here is what you’re doing wrong when you’re cooking veggies, and how you can fix that.
Stop overcooking your veg
If your broccoli is so soft that you can stab it and your fork passes through like butter, it’s overcooked. If you’re steaming asparagus for 10 minutes or more, you’re overcooking it. If your Brussels sprouts are falling apart and the center is just mush, you’re overcooking them.
There is a big wide variety of textures between so soft it disintegrates and completely raw, and a perfectly cooked vegetable lies somewhere in between.
If your parents steamed or boiled your veggies to death, it probably wasn’t their fault – it was how their own parents cooked for them as a child. Busy, working parents also don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to learning new cooking techniques, either, and throwing a handful of vegetables in a pot and forgetting about them for a while is the easiest preparation.
You don’t have enjoy veggies extra-crunchy or crispy, either, to realize that you’re probably overcooking them.
Make sure you season properly!
The biggest mistake home cooks make is that they don’t season their food properly. Seriously!! Seasoning your food has a huge impact on the final product.
(I’m going to take a moment to plug the book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. It goes into great detail on how important season, and salt, is.)
Season often, and taste after. I season my veggies before they go in the oven, and then again once they get out. Salt and pepper are always a must, and anything extra is based on what you’re serving the vegetables with.
Don’t be afraid of salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, and will make your cooking taste a lot better, I swear.
Consider roasting instead
Roasting my veggies has been a game changer for my cooking world. Instead of boiling them so they’re bland, wet, and frankly, gross, consider roasting your veggies instead.
The basics are simple: cut up your veggies into bite-sized pieces. Toss them with oil and the seasonings of your choice (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic is a household favorite), and then toss it in a relatively high oven until the hard parts are soft and the smaller pieces are delightfully caramelized and crispy, stirring once or twice during the process.
You really only need a sheet tray (or cookie tray, depending on where you’re from!) and some aluminum foil (it helps with cleanup). No extra gadgets, no special equipment, just a little bit of time (20-35 minutes depending on the veggie you’re roasting!) and you’re good to go.
In my home-cook opinion, a roasted veggie is just as good as a fried one, and it’s a whole lot healthier, too.
Other ways of preparation
Okay, so you’ve done roasted – or you don’t want to turn on the oven today. I get it.
Try a quick pickle – or a quickle – instead! You can quickle almost any veggie you’d like, but a favorite in our house is cucumber. Carrots, radishes, cauliflower, peppers, green beans… the sky is the limit. Red onions are particularly good as a quickle for taco night.
Wash your selected veggies and cut them so they will fit into a mason jar or similar air tight container. I like using my mandoline slicer for an even cut, but do what feels and looks good to you. The smaller and thinner the pieces are, the faster they will quickle.
Stuff the mason jars full of veggies, and fill in the spaces with some extra herbs and aromatics like thin-sliced garlic, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, onion, fresh dill, whole black peppercorns… whatever flavor profile you’re going for here, this is the time to add it.
While you’re doing this, heat up 2 cups vinegar (red, white, apple cider… whatever you’ve got), 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 4-6 tablespoons sugar, depending on your taste preferences.
Once the salt and sugar are dissolved and the liquid is hot, use a funnel (if you’ve got one; I scoop with a glass measuring cup because, well, I don’t own a funnel) to pour the vinegar mixture into the jars or containers.
Toss your jars in the fridge, and they’ll last several weeks. The longer they are in there, the stronger pickle-vibe they’ll get!
I love a good spiraled veggie, and zucchini is one of my favorite pasta substitutes! Use a spiralizer (or a potato peeler with teeth!) to make ribbons, then sauté briefly in a hot pan with oil and plenty of seasoning, like garlic and salt. Then, use with any recipe that calls for pasta! I love tossing it in lots of lemon with shrimp and garlic like a healthy scampi, but it’s good with marinara and chicken or a meat sauce, too.
For extra deliciousness, salt your veggies heavily and let them sit for a few minutes to leach out the extra moisture before they hit the pan.
Want to hide your veggies? Considering blending them in a smoothie. You can also bulk up your sauces with secret vegetables. Cut up veggies like carrots and onions to stew down in a tomato sauce, then blend with an immersion blender so that you can’t really taste them. Even though they’re not the stars of the dish, you’re getting the full health benefits.
Just eat your veggies
Look, I get it. Veggies aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But there are a lot of health benefits to eating them.
They don’t have to taste gross, or be soggy, or be left forgotten on your plate. Experiment with new cooking techniques, new veggies, and try new things. Your body, and your plate, will thank you.