As spring emerges, so do the farmers markets, soon bursting with everything from endive to eggplants. Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day, now is a great time to start slipping more veggies into your diet. Don’t worry about which ones are the healthiest. Just eat the colors of the rainbow, whether they come from your garden in the summer or your freezer in the winter. These tasty tips will help you sneak more veggies into your recipes and onto your plates.
USE THAT GRATING DISK
Peel root vegetables (such as carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets), and cut them into pieces that will easily fit into the feeding tube of your food processor. Shred the vegetables with the grating disk, and sauté them in olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes in a large skillet for a fast, fresh, and fabulous dish. The finishing touch? Toasted nuts and a spritz of lemon juice, lime juice, or balsamic vinegar.
LIGHTEN UP YOUR MASH
Mashed potato lovers, take note. You can double your vegetable intake if you mash those fluffy potatoes with cooked parsnips, carrots, or turnips. Or lose the potatoes altogether and serve mashed cauliflower or mashed winter squash. My family loves this recipe for mashed edamame from Gourmet magazine: Simmer a box of frozen, shelled edamame in boiling salted water for 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Purée the edamame, adding warmed buttermilk and, if you’re feeling lavish, a few pats of butter. Season with salt and pepper.
MAKE VEGETABLE PASTA
Invest in a spiralizer, a machine that cuts vegetables into long strands, and you will be able to make carrots, not pasta, the base of your next fettuccine dish. Likewise, swap out the pasta for a veggie like eggplant or zucchini the next time you make lasagna. Thinly slice the vegetable of your choice lengthwise, brush it lightly with oil, and bake it on a sheet pan in a 350 F oven until just tender. Layer it with tomato sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and cheese. Bake until heated through.
SPICE UP THAT DISH
Keep fresh or jarred store-bought salsa (with no sugar added) in the fridge. Top eggs, grilled meat, fish, soups, stews, and even a baked sweet potato with some salsa to give your dish a little Latin kick.
SERVE SOUP FOR SUPPER
Vegetable soup can be a meal unto itself. Simmer any array of vegetables in stock and add some kind of legume: think white beans, lentils, or chickpeas, to name just a few. When the soup is done, remove and purée some of the vegetables with a bit of the liquid. Return the purée into the soup, which will thicken it. Alternatively, you can partially purée the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. Add raw baby spinach, kale, or your choice of chopped greens before serving. The greens will cook quickly in the hot liquid and add texture and flavor to the soup. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and some grilled bread rubbed with a cut clove of garlic. If you think the carnivores in your home will be grumpy, add a bit of chopped or shredded cooked meat as a garnish.
TRY MEATLESS MONDAY (OR ANY OTHER DAY)
How about portobello mushroom burgers? Remove the stems, scrape out the gills, and marinate the caps in your favorite vinaigrette for 20 minutes. Cook them in a grill pan for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or bake in a 400 F oven until tender. Serve on toasted buns with roasted red peppers (bottled is fine), garlic mayo, and arugula. Want to try a cauliflower steak? Trim the stalk to be flush with the crown. Arrange the cauliflower stalk-side down on a cutting board, and slice it into “steaks” one-third of an inch thick. Brown the steaks in a skillet in olive oil and finish cooking until tender. Top with pesto or salsa verde (a green herb sauce available in stores). Serve with your favorite grain mix and some peas.
Cookbook author Sara Moulton (saramoulton.com) is currently the host of the public television show “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.”