Simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.
Naturally beautiful, too. Just like this butterfly.
The best thing to do when you get into a cooking rut is to buy a bunch of veggies at the store—whatever looks fresh—slice them up with garlic and onions, and get it all talking with some extra virgin olive oil in a pan. This simple process alone is enough to make your whole kitchen smell like something revolutionary is cooking on the stove. Add a few grinds of salt and pepper, and you’d be surprised at how easy a plate of veggies could go down.
Once you get started, it’s easy to get going. For me, this mindset applies to nearly everything in my life. From running to writing to cooking, after the first few tricky minutes, the rest of the cruise typically turns into a smooth and pleasant sail. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come home from work and forced myself to opt for a run over a nap. Or the number of occasions I’ve made veggie-chopping rather than toaster-plopping a mandatory evening activity. I’m always happy with these decisions. And the enjoyment usually comes no more than 5 minutes into the process.
When sauteing, once the veggies start releasing their aromatic allure, the creative juices may begin to flow. Perhaps you keep it simple, or maybe you add soy sausage, oregano and mozzarella like I did here. All of the ingredients that followed made this pasta spark, but it was the veggies that got the dish rolling. With the summer garden season still thriving, there’s really no better time to look towards the soil-rooted ingredients for a little culinary inspiration.
Growing up, if you’d ask me my favorite veggie, you’d always get the same response: Green beans. Today, my response might not be so automatic, but green beans still reside as one of my favorites. Unlike many other veggies, green beans have a relatively mild flavor. This is likely why my childhood taste buds were so drawn to them. Holding true into my older years, when I’m getting tired of that sharp, dark-green veggie flavor, it’s green beans I reach for.
Their neutral flavor is also great for cooking, allowing them to easily adapt to other ingredients thrown into the pan. Here, I add in balsamic-sweetened red onions and diced tomatoes for a little color, in addition to basil and gorgonzola, which star on the main stage for taste.
There’s nothing like a spruced up green bean dish to serve alongside the main entree when entertaining guests. No matter how tasty the entree, it always needs its veggie side kick. This one will take fewer than 15 minutes to make, meaning just a few extra minutes than simply steaming the beans. So when you’re feeling like getting a little fancy and dressing up those beans, keep this idea ready to go.
For a veggie, cauliflower’s taste lays on the bland side, which is why many don’t care for the crimpy-headed crucifer. However, it’s mild flavor is what draws me t0 cauliflower. I find the subtle, slightly sweet flavor to pair rather pleasantly with a vast array of ingredients. Kind of similar to tofu, cauliflower will blend into the other ingredients in which you cook it. Although, unlike tofu, it’s texture needn’t be too tampered with.
Here, I create a delicate sauce using just a few simple, quality ingredients that allow the cauliflower to take the main stage. A few flavor-potent ingredients join the mix in order to provide some depth to the pasta* that I place underneath. Caramelized garlic and shallots fragrantly fill the dish, alongside salty capers that add a certain pop to the pasta. Toasted walnuts and some fresh nuances seal the deal. With a mere 29 calories per cup (and a ton of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and fiber), cauliflower is certainly worthy of being the star in this light, summery pasta dish.
*I used multi-colored whole wheat rotini to add some color to the cauliflower, but feel free to use whatever variety of pasta your heart desires. But of course, a whole wheat variety is recommended.
There are certain ingredients that can always be called upon to fire up a recipe. Ingredients that can transform the ordinary to extraordinary. That when added to a dish, they create a secret pop that bluffs you into believing a simple recipe wasn’t so simple at all. Sure, there’s the obvious ones like fresh herbs and the never-ending varieties of chili peppers. And then there’s the capers and olives and raisins and Parmesans. Rather than fresh, those that fit in the latter group are often either dried, cured, and/or are aged, allowing for a compact flavor to brew and really add a pungent depth of flavor to a dish.
One of my favorites from this category are sun-dried tomatoes, a shriveled down version of a tomato that has lost 85-95% of its water weight. Sun-dried tomatoes pack all of the flavor and nutrients of a tomato into a checker-sized playing piece. Just like their un-sun-baked counterparts, they’re full of lycopene, vitamin C, and an array of other antioxidants. And when cured in olive oil, they stew up even more of an intense flavor in addition to a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats (shown to reduce the risk of heart and inflammatory diseases).
Originally created under the Tuscan sun blazing down on the tile roofs of Italy, I bought an already packaged jar from my local grocery store and walked them home on the sunny streets of Philadelphia. I then added them to a beans and greens saute to instantly spruce up the simple dish. These ruby reds can take your cooking skills and taste buds a long way.