Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weird veggies and CSAs

When I tell people about my CSA, the most common comment is, "I tried one, but I didn't know what to do with (fill in the blank), so it all went to waste." For shame, people. Has no one ever heard of Google?

For vegetable noobs, I highly recommend Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Even if you're not vegetarian. Also, good old all-purpose The Joy of Cooking.

Don't fear the strange vegetable. Like I tell my extremely picky 10-year-old stepson, what are you afraid of? Afraid you might actually like it?
A few tips on unfamiliar vegetables and fruits:
1. Don't ever boil anything. Boiling makes the freshest, crispiest vegetables taste like sludge. Even corn on the cob can be vastly improved by grilling it. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I'm not really a fan of steaming, either.
2. When in doubt, give it a very quick saute in a little olive oil and garlic. Better yet, roast or saute it in bacon fat.
3. A surprising number of vegetables can be sliced and eaten raw. Zucchini, yellow squash, beets, and asparagus can all be sliced raw into ribbons or grated and eaten as salad.
4. Most vegetables can be roasted--including greens, if you put them on pizza. See #5.
5. Any vegetable can be added to soup or pizza or a pasta dish.
6. Any previously roasted vegetable (beets, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, fennel, spinach, ad infinitum) along with some caramelized onions will make an absolutely smashing pizza. (See #5.)
7. Unfamiliar fruits--persimmons, blood oranges, pawpaws--can often make an interesting fruit salsa or pork marinade. At the very least, they'll jazz up a margarita.

And a final parting thought: don't get hung up on separating leaves from stems. I chop entire bunches of greens and herbs, stems and all, and have yet to encounter any significant taste difference. (Yes, the stems are usually more fibrous than the leaves. That doesn't mean they taste bad.) In the case of broccoli and cauliflower stems, you can peel them and chop the tender insides. Tastes just like the florets, and you're not wasting anything. Often the greens are just as tasty and nutritious as the root vegetable they're attached to, albeit in a different way (think carrot greens, beet greens, turnip greens).

I have yet to encounter a food that couldn't be made to taste good some way, some how. If you don't know what to do with something, just leave a comment! I'm happy to help!

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