Don’t like vegetables? Here are my top seven tips to make your vegetables taste great. And I’ve included my three best sauce recipes to accompany veggies, if you’re looking for extra flavor.
No matter how many times I say you should “eat your vegetables,” that can be pretty hard to do if vegetables just don’t taste good to you. When people tell me that they don’t like veggies, it’s often a combination of things. Some people don’t like the texture of vegetables, while others say it’s the taste or the odor that turns them off. And sometimes it’s all three. If the only words you associate with vegetables are “mushy” “smelly” and “bitter,” that’s a shame—because when vegetables are well-prepared, they really can taste great.
When vegetables are overcooked, their texture suffers and they can lose a lot of their fresh flavor. On top of that, overcooking veggies can destroy the beautiful bright colors, which makes them a lot less appetizing to look at. To preserve taste, texture and color, most vegetables are at their best when they’re cooked until just tender-crisp. That means they’re heated and cooked through, and you can easily bite them—but they’ve still got a bit of a ‘snap’ to them.
Most vegetables are quite low in calories, so the addition of a little bit of healthy fat won’t drive the calories per serving up too high. You can sauté veggies in a little bit of flavorful olive oil, or drizzle on a tiny bit of sesame or walnut oil after they’re steamed. Just a sprinkle of nuts or seeds can add a lot of flavor, too. Try sesame seeds, toasted pine nuts or finely chopped walnuts or pecans.
Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook vegetables—especially carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The dry heat of the oven caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables, which brings about an amazing depth of flavor. And it’s super-easy. Cut broccoli or cauliflower into florets, cut Brussels sprouts in half, and cut peeled carrots in half lengthwise and then into 2” pieces. Fire up your oven to 425 F / 220 C. While the oven is heating, toss the vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread out on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or so, turning occasionally, until they’re browned and tender. Try this method with other veggies like roasted beets, asparagus or green beans are delicious, too.
Baby vegetables are often milder in flavor than their more mature counterparts. So, you might prefer baby versions of artichokes, squashes, turnips and Brussels sprouts. Smaller leafy greens are more tender and mild than more mature ones, so look for ‘baby’ greens like spinach, kale or chard—especially if you’re going to eat them raw.
Blanching your veggies in hot water for just a minute takes away much of the raw taste, but minimizes vitamin losses because the process is so quick. This works really well with strong-tasting, firm vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower florets. Bring a pot of water (salt optional) to a boil, then drop in the veggies and leave them for about 45 seconds. Drain, then give a quick rinse with cold water and drain again. They’re now ready to stir-fry, or just chill and add to salads or use for dipping. Another top vegetable tip: Hot vegetables carry odors. So, if that’s what stops you from eating them, this blanch-and-chill method might work really well for you.
I love kale and cabbage salads, but the flavor and texture can be a little strong if the greens are used raw. Try this vegetable tip: Shred your greens very fine, and then put them in the basket of a salad spinner or colander. Gently run hot water over the greens while you “massage” them for just a minute or two. Follow with a quick rinse under cold water to refresh, then drain the greens well and add your dressing. This method takes away some of the “raw” taste and wilts the greens just a bit, which gives a better texture to the salad.
I’m not sure why so many people don’t season their vegetables. It’s a shame when people tell me they just can’t stand “plain steamed vegetables,” as if that’s the only way they should be eaten. The addition of herbs, spices, garlic, onion, citrus juices or vinegar can add a load of flavor with no additional calories. There are no hard and fast rules here, so feel free to experiment. Try some ‘classic’ pairings like basil with tomato, ginger with carrots and garlic with leafy greens. Sometimes a little sweet flavor can take away the bitter bite, too. I usually dress my kale salad with a little vinaigrette. But the addition of something a sweet—some diced mango, apple or fresh oranges, or a few golden raisins or dried cranberries—really takes the edge off.
– 1 Tablespoon lime juice
– 1 Tablespoon brown sugar or honey
– ½ Tsp. dried dill weed
– Salt and pepper to taste
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Lime-Dill sauce is great on steamed carrots.
– 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
– 1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
– 1 Tablespoon olive oil
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– ½ tsp. sugar or honey
– Salt and pepper to taste
Mix dressing ingredients together. Try this Lemon-Garlic-Mustard sauce drizzled on steamed green beans.
Spicy Hoisin Sauce
– 2 Tablespoons Hoisin sauce*
– 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
– 1 Tablespoon rice wine* (Mirin)
– 2 tsp. sugar or honey
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– ½ tsp. chili paste*
Mix the spicy hoisin sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Good on stir-fried broccoli or asparagus.
*Available in Asian grocery stores or ethnic foods section of supermarket.