vegetables

We know there are always exceptions, so with that in mind, I’m going to make a sweeping generalization to make my point – veggies are completely and utterly underrated, unappreciated, unloved and most importantly, misunderstood! You know it, I know it and humans born post-late ’90’s will certainly second that!

So I’m here to give the humble, heroic vegetable a voice. Their versatility knows no bounds. They can be true blue, think fresh greens or a shapely artichoke; they can be chameleons, think mac & cheese with cauliflower purée (you’ll really think it’s cream!); or they can be charlatans, think green smoothies or chocolate cake with beets. They can be major, minor or little league players – veggies bring it all together– afterall they can sustain life, ergo, vegetarians.

vegetable basics & recipes

artichokes to avocados

artichokes

Every time I buy artichokes (and I do on a regular basis) – I wonder how it ever came to be that it was discovered to be such a delicacy. From a distance they look regal and perfect, up close? A slightly different story, but one oh so worth telling. First, the leaves with their approach-with-caution aura, think serious mandibles at the tip of every single tightly wrapped leaf. And when you work your way past the gate keeper, you have to get your head around the idea of the choke and all the stories of well, choking– boggles the mind really. Well, I’m here to put all that folklore to rest. Yes, there is a deadly little prick at the tip of each leaf, and yes, there is a hairy little choke before you coddle the heart – but it’s all so doable and all so worth it. They are delicious, can be prepared in a myriad of ways and are oh so very, very good for you – what more could you want. Get yourself up to speed on how to handle an artichoke and we’ll see who’s handling who by sundown.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

arugula (rocket)

Of all the leafy greens, this is the one that rocks the loudest. It’s like a rock star at a party, you always know they’re there. With it’s distinctive peppery taste, it’s the one everyone can point out, like Mick Jagger in the corner with a baseball cap on. It is brilliant in salads, and you don’t need much to take your salad from a category 1 to a category 5 – start with a base of arugula and start layering like you’re boarding up the levies –  thin slices of vegetables, cooked pasta, slices of juicy steak or chicken breast, chunks of fish – drizzle a vinaigrette over top and DIIIIII-NN-EEEEEEER!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

asparagus

Once upon a time, when the world ate locally – asparagus was the sure sign of spring, even it was still snowing and us asparagus lovers wouldn’t have it any other way. These days, asparagus can be enjoyed year round and like anything you can get when you’re not supposed to get it, you’ll pay. You’ll know what broke the bank when you see it on a Christmas menu. Wait for spring – it’s when asparagus is the most tender, fresh and delicious – when it didn’t have to book a flight to get to you. This is one thing in life worth waiting for – real asparagus from your local farmer, when spring has just sprung.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

avocado

Hands down, avocado is on the short list of what’s on my plate before they flip the switch. It’s very hard to believe something so buttery and rich tasting came from nature – usually, that only happens when humans get involved. First, I’ve been known to peel one and eat as one would an orange. Decadent? I suppose. Heaven? Absolutely. Like Romeo & Juliet, avocados and grapefruit should go down in history as a marriage made in culinary heaven. Don’t knock it, ’til you try it. Unfortunately, avocados have had a hard time making it past the buffet table at a Superbowl party. I daresay, guacamole is quite possibly the #1 dip served on the day of the big game – poor avocado. Get to know an avocado and guacamole will be what you make when you have run out of ideas.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

beets to brussels sprouts

beets & greens

First and foremost, don’t be afraid of beets. Just because they can turn your kitchen into a purple haze, is no reason to shun the beet. Make no mistake, it can stain – everything from your hands to your counter, cookware and clothing – know this going in. So enter latex gloves! They really will save the day. How do I deal with beets? First, I never ever peel beets before I cook them, and second, I always roast them. Just throw them in a dutch oven, lid on, and you’ll never be in a purple haze again. Ok, maybe just a little, cause you do have to peel them, but the skins will slip off like a bunny suit at the Playboy mansion! And if you haven’t tried it, you won’t believe your taste buds – raw beet sandwiches. Crazed, you say? Is there any other way? The beet goes on

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

bok choy

The Asian greens section of your grocer can intimidate initially with all the boks, and choys, sums, shoots and sprouts, but don’t let that deter you. Names aside, they’re just greens of which bok choy is the star. To perfectly cook bok choy, separate the green leafy part from the white stalk to create 2 piles– heat up a pan, swirl in a little olive oil, add the stalks, cook until tender and finish with the leaves. If you have the pleasure of dealing with baby bok choy, simply slice down the middle and sear to a golden crunchy perfection. If as many end up on the plate as were in the pan, well, you’re a better soul than I. My point? Don’t balk the bok!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

broccoli & broccolini

Imagine using your clout to bypass broccoli. Well, that’s exactly what George Bush senior did when he declared that “I’m the President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” You’ve got to be kidding me! Mothers around the world could have taken him out and given him a big ‘ole collective timeout! A clear winner courtesy of Mother Nature, you just can’t eat a healthier food. Poor Mr. Bush. And with the endless, delicious ways to prepare it, maybe his mother just needed a cooking lesson or 2. This is a stunning example of how cooking something badly can scar you for life. Had she asked a friend, given Julia Child a call or simply cracked a cookbook, her little boy may have grown up into a grownup who eats his broccoli! Too bad broccolini wasn’t mainstream back then, she could have eased him into it – when broccoli hooked up with kale, their love-child was broccolini. So if I haven’t been clear, go get yourself some broccoli and start choppin’ …

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

broccoli rabe (rapini)

It’s not broccoli, it’s not broccolini and surprisingly, it’s not even a relation. Broccoli rabe is an outspoken member of the cabbage/kale/turnip/mustard greens family, so whoever the wise guy was to name it “broccoli” anything, has got some splainin’ to do! Regardless, it’s more popular than broccoli in Italian kitchens, so is best prepared like a true Italian mama would – simple, simple, simple – and that’s the hard part. Another one of life’s little mysteries – busy, confusing, complicated and involved is easy – stripped down, bare naked, all exposed, now that’s hard. Try it. To leave well enough alone in the kitchen, is very, very, hard.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

brussels sprouts

Some vegetables have a bad rap and brussels sprouts are one of them – they’re either the life of the party or they didn’t even make the guest list. First, are they cute or are they cute? They’re cute – teeny, tiny, little cabbages that are absolutely adorable. And the most adorable thing about a brussels sprout is how it takes care of you from the inside out. Like all vegetables, when cooked properly, they’re delectable and when they’re not, they’re nasty. In the case of brussels sprouts, they need to be soft, not mushy, which is the difference of a minute or 2, so you’ll have to hold it ’til the sprouts are off the heat or you wet your pants, whichever comes first – overcooked brussels sprouts are a very, very sad thing. . So with that in mind, give brussels sprouts another look – they’re cute as can be, they’re yummy and they’ll help you live longer. What more can you ask from cabbages for little people?

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

cabbages to cucumbers

cabbages

What’s 3 miles long and eats cabbage? A deli line in Poland, of course. And if you knew what the Poles know, you’d be lining up to. First, cabbage makes the short list of the best foods you aren’t eating. And with the many ways to prepare it, starting with raw to braised, to soups & stews, to stuffed, sautéed and pickled, your big dilemma will really be which way to prepare it – this time. Cabbage’s reputation has been dragged through the mud, but fortunately, it can take it. A head of cabbage should be a staple in your kitchen like, well, like the water coming out of the faucet.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

cardoons

And what the heck is a cardoon? I must’ve been Italian in a past life because i’m attracted to all things Italian, and cardoons are no exception. Simply, it’s as common in Italy as the artichoke, but handled in the opposite way. The flower head of a cardoon is inedible, and it’s the stalks that all the fuss is about. Slowly braised, they will have the look of celery and the taste of artichoke – and at the end of the day, it’s a slow cookin’  kinda vegetable – the longer, the slower, the better, (now stop that, this is a family show)! So depending on where you live, you’ll see them at the farmers markets, and if you do, go for it and don’t look back. Sometimes it’s just fun to tackle something foreign, Benicio, anyone?.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

carrots

Lucky carrots– they have the enviable honour of being the world’s most popular vegetable (potatoes don’t count). It’s one of the first vegetables to pass a humans lips, way before teeth appear and probably one of the last when they’ve disappeared! Carrots have been the big stars of the vegetable patch, thanks to that famous bunny. Nothing could be easier to transport, nothing could be tastier when cooked – steamed, roasted, sautéed, glazed, puréed, creamed – and if it can do for our eyesight what that bunny did for its reputation, well, no wonder it’s here to stay – talk about 24-carat!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

cauliflower

This is one of my favorites – ever since I discovered you could turn a head of cauliflower into an alfredo sauce, I got weak in the knees! If that wasn’t enough, I then sliced it in thick, yes, you got it, slices –  and seared them as I would a pork chop – heaven, pure heaven. Gone are the days of overcooked cauliflower showing up on Sunday night wearing more cheese than a pick-up line in a  nightclub. ‘Tis a new day – cauliflower has moved to a warmer climate, gotten rid of that cheesy overcoat and traded it in for much lighter wardrobe –

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

celery

Celery has the distinction of being right up there with carrots as the most likely duo on the veggie platter, though, sadly for celery, it’s still second fiddle – always a bridesmaid, never a bride … sigh. Celery needs to get their collective selves together, get off that platter and get a little hot under the collar. Somehow celery gets overlooked when a pan gets hot, and truth be told, that’s exactly where the celery should be headed – straight into that hot pan. Thought there wasn’t much you could do with celery? Really? Really? Really. Well, I hate to contradict, but you couldn’t be more mistaken – just celery every way imaginable. Who knew? Now we both do.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

celeriac (celery root)

Poor celery root, not the prettiest one at the party, but you know what they say – it’s all about that inner beauty. And if any vegetable could be the poster child for inner beauty, it would be celeriac. Once you give it a bath, a shave and get that hideous coat off, well, it’s a whole other story. You make a big mistake prejudging this ugly duckling of root vegetables – it can be enjoyed raw or cooked and couldn’t be easier to get along with. So next time Jabba of the vegetable aisle looks at you, look past the bumps, smile and take a few home – it’s time to embrace the gnarly. This would be another one of life’s hidden treasures – so here’s celery root all cleaned up.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

collard greens

Sounds like something to be eaten on the bayou, in the sweltering heat while listening to Stanley Kowalski holler – maybe Stella needed to find more than one way to cook up those greens. Well, Stanley wouldn’t be hollering no more – collards have gone mainstream – real mainstream. If nothing else, the health benefits are sure to impress, and if their taste can be as impressive as their health punch, why wouldn’t we go there? Of course, we’ll go there – here we go – we’re going there – let’s ease into it – how about 5 things to do with collard greens.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

corn

So now for something completely different – buttered corn on the cob ICE CREAM! Yes, you read that right. Ice cream. And if you think about it, why not? It’s sweet, cream is a common bedfellow and butter is cream on steroids. So, it’s actually not as big a stretch as it initially sounds. But before we get to dessert, we need to wrap our collective heads around the many ways to deal with that cob of corn. It so needs to get past that pot of boiling water, and to help you do that – there are so many more ways to cook a cob of corn, so this should give you a few ideas! And once off the cob, well, it’s off the hook – corn can really end up anywhere, well not exactly anywhere, but it can sure show up alot.

So start enjoying corn year round, frozen can stand-in for fresh quite successfully in most recipes, the cob will thank you! And when summer rolls around, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for it still attached to the cob.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

cucumbers

Cucumbers must be British – they’ve mastered their life long role starring in a high tea cucumber sandwich. They have, however, made a break for it and crossed many borders – think tzatziki, raitagazpacho, or pickled. And there are a few reasons to keep then in stock – let’s try and go beyond a salad, (it’s hard) – because like it or not, the cucumber is a brilliant addition to any “salad”.

Let’s face it, cucumbers are best cold, hence cool as a cucumber, hence salads, cold soups, sauces, dips and drinks. A few humans could take a page out of the cool cucumber’s book – go forth and be cool – and speaking of cool, check these out – cucumbers cups and fill them with anything you want from a cocktail (sake comes to mind) and you can make your “glass” as tall as you like – bonus! Now that you have your cocktail taken care of, how about salsa, tuna or chicken salad, any dip or dressing – I did say anything. And in case you have any extra cucumbers lying around, you will never be at a loss for what to do with them – some edible and some not. Your welcome.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

daikon to lettuces

daikon

Technically, daikon is a radish but think of it as the bleached, paler big sister to a carrot. And you handle it the same way – peel and slice, dice, shred – just like you would a carrot. I use thin slices as a healthy stand-in for chips or crackers (as I do jicama). Diced or shredded, they can be headed for a salad, soup or stir-fry. They’re very often pickled and make a regular appearance on a tempura platter at your local Japanese joint. In fact, daikon is quite possibly Japan’s largest veggie crop!
So next time you’re in charge of the veggie platter, invite daikon to the party – the carrots, celery, cukes, & peppers will appreciate the company, and you’ll be the one who’s choppin’ outside the box.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

eggplant

Eggplant is a vegetarians dream – one of the “meatier” vegetables. Thick slices can double as a the burger or the bun, it’s like a sponge when it comes to absorbing flavors, it can be cooked using every cooking method imaginable, it has a dreamy, creamy quality that adds a richness without the calories – what’s not to love?  All I can say is wow, wow, and wow – stand back, call the media and get ready for your close-up – both of you!

Start with the basics – slice and grill, roast & purée, and enjoy as is, add to salads and pastas or carry on to the food processor and make babaghanoush. If you grew up in the Mediterranean, the rounded variety would be a daily sighting (duh! it is Europe after all) just as the slimmer, sleeker model is referred to as “Japanese” eggplant – well of course they are – it’s Japan, inventors of all things slimmer & sleeker.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

endive

First, meet the queen – queen on-deev! Yes, that is the correct pronunciation – not n-dive, but on-deev. Ok now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on. If you’re watching your waistline, endive is a calorie counters dream. Weighing in at 90% water, you can feast on endive till you can’t feast on endive no mo’. Its canoe shaped leaves become the perfect vessel for many things –  just make sure that what goes in your canoe won’t sink your canoe! Dips, salsas, tuna, chicken, egg salads, cheesy mixtures – whatever you like.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

fennel

Fennel is like celery, but with feathers & fronds, not strings and leaves – kinda like the difference between the Indy 500 and a Monster Truck Show, Tina Fey & Rosie O’Donnell, a Coach bag and a backpack, the Hamptons and Queens – they’re on the same train, but not quite the same time.

After a rinse, cut off the stalks (they’re only good for stock) & fronds (they’re good for garnish); trim the root end of the bulb and break it down as far as you like – just start slicing for whole; cut it in half lengthwise & slice for stir fry; halve it again & slice for chunks, and once again for dice – you’re just breakin’ it down – so you must ignore this plea – don’t break me down – carry on. I’m done.

It can be headed for any cooking method you like – raw in salads, stir into soups, added to fillings, sauces, stir fries – fried, sautéed, steamed, grilled – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, emergency kits  – am I making my point? Forage for fennel and ferret out the fuss. I can’t stop myself, really, I can’t.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

fiddleheads

Ok, just the name can start a conversation – fiddles & heads are 2 words that simply shouldn’t be next to each other – they should turn to each other and exclaim –“what the heck are doing here, wait ‘til the neighbors find out.”

Once we’ve explained that it’s all an innocent mistake, fiddleheads will post bail, and cook up like nobody’s business, to become everybody’s business. You have to be quick, fiddleheads season is short – they are, after all, baby ferns before they’ve unfurled, woken up and gotten with the program – and babies don’t stay unfurled, asleep and dense for very long. A quick turn in a hot pan with olive oil and garlic and you’re good to go – enjoy as is with a squeeze of lemon or stir into rice or pastas, toss over greens

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

green beans

Poor green beans – they’ve been singled out as the one to shun, the one to leave behind, the one to yell at, the one to avoid at all costs – why? I have a theory. When vegetables are cooked beyond recognition, slathered in cloying sauces and left for dead, well, they do lose a touch of appeal. A crisp, fresh, gorgeously green, green bean is a thing to behold.

Heat a pan, swirl in the EVOO, throw in the beans and a hefty splash of H2O, (broth is best) and when the liquid is gone, mince in a clove or 2 of garlic, a little S&P, a shot of balsamic vinegar and your beans are ready for their close-up. They should still be crispish – crispish? You know, slightly crispy. Save the cloying sauces for somewhere else, and find out what a green bean is really supposed to taste like.

And just to tease you a little, imagine green bean pesto – yes, pesto made out of green beans. Too bad this little girl’s mother didn’t get out the food processor, some garlic, nuts and olive oil – ’cause when it comes to green beans, what you don’t know couldn’t possibly hurt you!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

jicama

This is what you get when you cross a potato and a pear – you get clean, you get crisp, you get sweet, you get fresh, you get a little nutty – kinda like Carson Kressley. Come to think of it, Carson is the jicama on the turnip truck! Sorry Carson, it really is a compliment, you’ll see –  I digress.

Back to jicama – always peel it and then do whatever you like. Slice, dice, julienne, mash, shred, grate – it will accommodate whatever it rolls with. Talk about kind and forgiving, see Carson? It really is a compliment. So next time you’re at the grocery store, look for Yoda, bring him home and clean him up – talk about a killer makeover.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

kale

Now I’m really going to get on my soapbox here – kale will take down whatever ails you – especially the major stuff. Why kale hasn’t joined the ranks of awareness ribbons, I’ll never know. How hard could it be to twist a little rib of kale around and finally give it its due. And why kale has been reduced to a little garnish next to a slice of orange in many a restaurant is beyond me. That little stiff lettuce thing on your plate when your entrée arrives? It’s kale! So take a crazed challenge – get kale into your diet, what am I saying – get kale into your body, and there are many, many, many ways to do this. See if you don’t feel better, see if you don’t feel brighter (you’ll be firing on all neurons); and lighter (a weight watchers dream); more able (move over Hans & Franz) and stable (how low can your cholesterol go). When it comes to kale, I could go on and on and on and on … and on, but I won’t, because I think I just did. Just believe me when I say, a whack of kale a day, will keep a heckuva lot of nasty stuff away – so when kale enters the kitchen, all should stop and salute and launch into a rousing rendition of – you guessed it – kale, kale the gang’s all here …

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

lettuces

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce in and we’ll tell you! So on that note, there is so much more to “lettuce” than a big, cellophane-wrapped head of 95% crispy water. It usually showed up as the crunch for burgers or tacos or as a hefty wedge slathered in 1000 island dressing, commonly referred to as Russian dressing – don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that – not the Russian part – the slathering part. It’s a classic creation with a few twists and turns along the way, the most notable being the zingy blue cheese that found its way to the party. Salad was nothing more than that until someone had the insight to tear up the lettuce, dice up a few additions – carrot, celery, pepper, a little onion and toss it all around – then slather on the dressing – that would be lettuce 101.

Like everything, there are a dizzying array of lettuce varieties to choose from and as many ways to combine them, so experiment, mix and match – they all bring their unique personalities to the table. So much so, that “lettuce” falls under the big “greens” umbrella and a salad can get as busy as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. So suit yourself – join the madness, God knows there are 1000’s of ways to do it – so when you look down and see a simple wedge with an oozy creamy dressing sliding down the sides like a cashmere shawl, congratulations, you will have come full circle – lettuce us never part. Amen.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

mushrooms to pumpkin

mushrooms

Mushrooms are the ones to envy, they’ve got it all goin’ on – they will never be banned from a party (unless of course, you simply don’t like them – I’m assuming you do). What’s not to like? Their history is deep, spanning 1000’s of years, with as many varieties and just as many ways to consume them – let’s start with 10 – raw, marinated, grilled, sautéed, stuffed, broiled, steamed, braised, dehydrated, pesto – how about mushroom pâté or mushroom chips – yes chips!

[flickr]http://www.flickr.com/photos/55745062@N05/6798736137/[/flickr]

So with the seemingly endless ways to enjoy mushrooms, move them up to the top 10 vegetables you would never be caught without – with these babies in your crisper – the compliments won’t be far behind. Get up close and personal with these fabulous fungi – their varieties are many – and get yourself some serious prep skills – they go with everything, like black, so think of mushrooms as the new black of the vegetable patch.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

okra

Unfortunately for all of us, okra is also a card-carrying member of the objectionable-vegetables-society, and like its’ other members (green beans come to mind) it is completely undeserved, unwarranted, unjust, unfair, unreasonable, unfounded, heck, it’s just plain wrong. To love okra is to understand okra – kinda like diggin’ Mister Rogers – once you get past the song and the sweater – he’s aight! He’s more than aight, he’s a Hall of Famer – which is exactly where okra needs to end up. Think of okra as the Mister Rogers of the vegetable bin.

Once you wrap your head around the anatomy of okra, the slime will be something you can control – sometimes you need it and sometimes you don’t – kinda like a little healthy venting! It’s very simple – when okra comes into contact with water, (especially steam) – it wakes up the slime. That’s why it usually shows up in a classic cajun gumbo as the thickener. So to seal in the slime, first, wash them and dry, dry, dry them – get that okra drier than an overcooked chicken breast before you proceed with your recipe. So hang on to your hat – okra needs to keep walkin’ past the dutch oven and head over to the fry pan for a sizzling sauté over highish heat– and when it comes to okra, the sizzle seals in the slime! When you’re cooking anything – the sizzle seals. It seals in moisture, flavour and yes, even slime. So open your mind, pick up some okra and start sizzlin’ so this doesn’t happen to you – unless of course, you want it to!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

onions

If you don’t have onions in your pantry right now, get up and go get some. Onions are the foundation to more recipes than not. Where would we be without them – they start more soups, stews and sauces than the playground bully does scuffles, they show up in more salads than Taylor Swift does on the podium at award shows – they finish more dishes than a contestant in a pie-eating contest – my point? Start runnin’ with onion! You’ll soon learn what onion to use where and the far-reaching spectrum of flavour one little ‘ole onion can produce – from sharp & peppery to soft & sweet – sounds like a couple of people I know – and this would be a group you want to get to know very, very well.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

parsnips

Treat these blonde “carrots” like their orange look alikes, just turn on some heat when you start the washing, peeling (or scrubbing), slicing & dicing – parsnips can be eaten raw, but when cooked is when that little ‘ole parsnip is ready for the red carpet. Steamed, simmered, roasted, grilled, fried – if a mash or purée is where you’re headed, cook with a wet method (steam & simmer) – if caramelized heaven is what you’re after – cook with a dry one (roast, grill or fry). Once cooked, add them to any dish where you want to up the veggie factor, the interest factor, heck, I’ll just say it, the x-factor! Bottom line? Let a few parsnips move you!

In salads, soups, stir-fries, pastas & wraps, under stews & braises, beside roasts – are you getting the picture – parsnips need to show up more often than twice a year on holiday tables – and when you wrap your head around what this little root can do for your health – well, let’s just call it parsnip power – they’re easy on the pocket book, easy for us home cooks to prepare and when they caramelize in a roasting pan – stand back – you’re going to have to bring your own muscle to power your way to the front of the line. They turn into sweet, tender spears, cubes or dice of candied goodness – learn how to roast roots and you’ll be passing the parsnips more often than, well, you know …

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

peas

Snow peas, snap peas, green peas – say hello to peas. The snow and snap varieties can be eaten as is and since they need very little cooking time can be tossed into virtually anything. And as for the familiar green pea, well it’s probably the easiest going vegetable around – why? – they’re always in season, in every freezer aisle across the land. If you can get them fresh at your farmers’ market – by all means, just start running since the sugars start turning to starch before you get to the parking lot – if they make it that far (you ate them right out of the bag).

And if you’re reaching in the freezer for your bright green protein-packed balls of natural sugar – that’s a good thing. Toss them into anything – in salads, pastas, soups, stews, on things, in things, around things, smash ’em, purée ’em (not just for babies), cream ’em, fry ’em – just do it at the end and quickly to help the little guys maintain their integrity – a pea who’s lost its integrity, well, that’s a pea whose lost a lot more than that – colour, flavour and texture for starters. So next time they’re staring back at you, I have 2 words for you – yes peas!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

peppers

Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers and the crazed cook crazily cooked them! And it’s the cooking that turns a pepper into one of the world’s most glorious foods – roasted red peppers – there’s is nothing like them. If this seems like a silly step on the way to getting peppers on the table – well, you’d be the silly one ’cause you’d be missing out on one of the most impressive transformations, when an ingredient meets heat.

First take peppers out on a first date, get to know a pepper – as in roastedstir-fried or puréed (after roasting). Now you know what you’re in for and you go a little deeper on a second date as in roasted red pepper hummus, or roasted red pepper soup – you’re more experienced now and ready to commit (a little) – as in red pepper lasagneromesco sauce or stuffed peppers – and when you truly wrap your mind around the vast world of peppers – from sweet to sweet with heat to “is my hair on fire?” – you’ll soon realize that you’ve fallen madly in love and you simply can’t live without them – peppers, what’s not to love! And they lived happily ever after. Don’t you just love a happy ending – me too. And if a pepper can inspire this – it can surely inspire you!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

hot peppers
chipotle peppers
jalapeño peppers

watch it – class is in session – videos await

potatoes

pumpkin

My take on pumpkin coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

radicchio to swiss chard

radicchio

My take on radicchio coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

radishes

My take on radishes coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

rutabaga

My take on rutabaga coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

salad greens

My take on salad greens coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

seaweed

Seaweed is the ocean equivalent of leafy greens – and just as there are many varieties of leafy greens, there are just as many varieties of seaweed. Nori is probably the more familiar of the seaweeds thanks to the popularity of sushi. But don’t stop there – when you’re at your grocery store you are looking for edible seaweed and it is typically found in the asian aisle, where you find sheets of nori. Look around and you’re sure to see bags of dried seaweed, ready to stir into a soup or stew – they hydrate very quickly – and they are sooooo good for you – how good? Well, let’s just say it’s right up there with not smoking, flossing daily, wearing a seatbelt and eating your veggies –  pretty impressive for something that just washes up on the shore!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

sorrel

My take on sorrel coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

spinach

squash

sweet potatoes

First, they could not be better for you so why wouldn’t we try and figure out a way to bring them in more often than twice a year! Reach for sweet potatoes for a change bypassing their blonde neighbours – some grocers mistakenly mark sweet potatoes as yams – big difference, that’s like calling a carrot a parsnip, or fennel celery, or a crepe a pancake, or your sister your brother, ok that might be a stretch –  but you get my point – sweet potatoes and yams are completely different vegetables!

sweet potato/grater

I’m so glad I go that off my chest – phew! Now that we’re clear what we’re talking about – go straighten out your local market – (I have on occasion) and once you let them ever-so-politely know that they’ve labelled the yams sweet potatoes or vice versa, get back into their good graces, take a few off their hands, go home and get busy with the 100’s of ways to prepare this oh-so-versatile vegetable. And FYI – kids love ’em!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

swiss chard

My take on swiss chard coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

tomatoes to zucchini

tomatoes

turnips

My take on turnips coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

water chestnuts

My take on water chestnuts coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

yams

My take on yams coming soon … so in the meantime, feast on what’s already out there!

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await

zucchini

Zucchini can be found in my fridge 24/7 – I’m not sure why that is, (yes I do, and so will you if you read on). I’ve met more people than I can say who simply never buy zucchini than those who do. I find that odd – very, very odd. How odd? Well, let’s see – hmmmm – how about odd as in – I’d never give zucchini a go but I’d do this to my hair, or I’d belly up to a bowl of this, or I’d name a school this – now come on! Zucchini is bountiful, colourful, flavourful, beautiful, merciful, wonderful, resourceful, healthful and in an attempt to get your attention, a tad lustful. If you’ve ever seen their flowers stuffed with ricotta and deep-fried, well – judge not what we don’t fully understand. My point? Zucchini needs to find its way into your grocery cart. I’m done. Say hello to zucchini.

read it – get yourself some serious know-how

watch it – class is in session – videos await