Almost any vegetable can be prepared by slicing the vegetable thinly, heating oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and then sautéing it until tender. Add a little garlic if you like, and finish with sea salt. Easy, right? However, if you want the sautéed vegetables to be genuinely tasty instead of mediocre, here’s the trick you need to know: Don’t overcrowd the pan/skillet.
Use a wide pan/skillet and only sauté a single layer of vegetables at a time. Vegetables release water as they cook, especially softer vegetables like courgette/zucchini and mushrooms. If you put too many vegetables in a pan at once, they’ll steam and turn to mush in their own liquid instead of sautéing to golden brown.
Here’s one good way to roast vegetables:
Peel if needed, then cut all the vegetables into pieces that are basically the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate. Group the vegetables by texture and/or type, so that shorter cooking veggies are on one sheet pan and longer cooking veggies are on another. For example, root vegetables, squash and potatoes (if you eat them) can be grouped together, and cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can be grouped together, and onions, courgettes/zucchini and bell peppers can be grouped together.
Coat the vegetables generously with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You could also use fresh rosemary, but any herbs that suit you.
Spread the vegetables out evenly in one layer on a sheet pan, with a little room to spare. Don’t overcrowd the sheet pan. For easier clean-up, line the sheet pan with parchment paper first... I find this very helpful!
Roast in the oven at 425º F : 220º C : gas mark 7 - hot, for 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of vegetable. Vegetables are done when they can be easily pierced with a fork and are lightly browned on the edges.
Simple and quick, steaming vegetables is perfect for busy week-nights. The great risk with steaming is sogginess (unfortunately how most of us think of steamed vegetables), so always set a timer. Stop steaming the veggies before they’re completely soft; they’re done when still slightly firm in the centre. Most vegetables take 5 to 10 minutes. Harder ones like sweet potatoes, carrots and squash steam in 10 to 20 minutes. For the best results, steam different types of vegetables separately.
A collapsible steamer basket is an inexpensive kitchen investment, and most rice cookers (if you use one) and Instant Pots have a steamer tray. Or, if you have one, you can use a microwave. Put cut-up vegetables in a bowl, add about 3 tablespoons water, and cover the bowl with a plate. Cook 2 ½ minutes, then check for done-ness. Be careful of hot steam when removing the plate. Or, try this method of microwave steaming with wet paper towels.
If you’re firing up the grill for meat, it makes sense to cook the entire meal on the grill. From courgette/zucchini to sweet potatoes (and even kale), vegetables are amazing with the smoky flavour and charred edges that only a grill can impart. It’s true that some vegetables are easier to grill than others, but with a few tips, you can expertly grill almost anything non-animal.
Heat-stable oil and salt should always be used, lightly coating the vegetables before grilling, then pouring on more oil and salt when the veggies are done. For even more flavour, marinate veggies in vinaigrette before grilling, or drizzle vinaigrette over warm, grilled vegetables.
Softer vegetables, like mushrooms, courgette/zucchini, onions and bell peppers are easy: Cut into smallish chunks and skewer, or cut into long, wide pieces that won’t fall through the grates. Grill until tender and lightly charred.
The easiest way to grill hard vegetables is to give them a head start. Firm vegetables can be brined before grilling. Or, simply par-boil the vegetables before grilling. Potatoes (regular and sweet), carrots, beets and other root vegetables can be cut into medium bite-sized pieces and boiled in water until just barely tender. Drain the vegetables, toss with oil and salt, then finish on the grill to char the veggies and cook to full tenderness.
Stalks of kale and Swiss chard, even wedges of Romaine lettuce, can be transformed on the grill into smoky, charred versions of their raw selves. Coat lightly in oil and salt, and grill the leaves 4 to 6 minutes (leaves can be ripped from the stalks before or after grilling)
For the least amount of fuss, (least amount of fuss can be good!) place single layers of thinly sliced vegetables on a large, lightly oiled piece of foil, then fold the foil around the vegetables like a loose packet. Grill the packet 8 to 12 minutes for quicker cooking vegetables, and 12 to 15 minutes for things like potatoes and onions.
This doesn’t just mean kale, Swiss chard, and collards. Radish leaves, beet greens, turnip leaves…they’re all edible. As mentioned above, greens can be grilled, but sautéing is the most common cooking method.
Sautéing is easy. Greens + oil + garlic is all you need. The challenge is coaxing greens into tenderness so you don’t end up with a pile of chewy leaves.
Try this technique: Tear the leaves off the stems. Stack the raw leaves in a pile, roll the pile up, and use a large knife to slice the leaves into thin ribbons. Heat olive oil and garlic over medium, then add the sliced greens by the handful, until it all fits in the pan/skillet. Add 1/3 cup stock, water, or coconut milk. Turn heat up to medium-high and cover. Cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes more until the liquid has evaporated.
Frozen Greens and Flavour Cubes
Despite good intentions to eat more greens, who among us hasn’t thrown away a limp bunch of kale after ignoring it all week? What about a soggy bag of baby spinach? Instead of wasting greens, blend them. Put handfuls of greens in the blender. Add a little water or coconut milk if necessary (to keep the blender moving) until the greens are pureed into a smooth consistency. Pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove and store cubes in a sealed plastic bag. Throw frozen green cubes into smoothies, soups, stews, and chili.
For savoury flavour cubes try this:
3 handfuls loosely packed herb leaves (mix herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley, or just choose one herb)
3 handfuls baby spinach or other chopped green
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon grated ginger (optional)
Fresh, seasonal produce is best, but when it comes to convenience, frozen vegetables are a part of modern life! They don’t need to be washed, sliced, or prepped, and they cook in a matter of minutes. The importance of convenience can’t be underestimated. If keeping frozen veggies on hand means you eat more veggies, then stock up the freezer.
Frozen vegetables are usually picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen, preserving all the nutrients. The best way to cook frozen vegetables is to steam, microwave, or simmer them for just a few minutes. For soups and stews, add frozen vegetables straight from the freezer in the last minutes of cooking.
Dear reader, you will find a variety of articles and recipe ideas within this blog, and not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.
All the best Jan