Vegetables can be just as flavorful and exciting to cook as a grilled steak or seared tuna. What can you do to make sure your favorites are getting the proper respect on your dinner plate? Learn the difference between the major vegetable families.
There are seven families of vegetables that encompass pretty much all of your favorites. Fruit vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber, to name a few, are technically fruit, but because they aren’t very sweet, we usually consider them vegetables.
Leafy vegetables, like kale, collards, and celery, are in the family of salad greens. The general rule is the darker the green, the more nutritious — kale, for instance, is packed with vitamins. Quickly blanch bitter leafy vegetables in boiling water for about 15 seconds, and then shock them in ice-cold water to preserve their crunch and remove some of the offensive bitter flavor.
You almost always have to cook root vegetables like beets, turnips, and potatoes to bring out their best flavor. Roasting beets in the oven and serving in a salad of goat cheese and refreshing vinaigrette makes for a perfect dinner starter. These root vegetables tend to have a high sugar content and either blatant (i.e. beets) or subtle (i.e. potatoes) taste.
Vegetables in the cabbage family are often underrated; varieties like endive and radicchio add a pleasant bitterness to salads and stews. The inexpensive white cabbage is ideal for sauerkraut to top your grilled sausage.
The summer months bring a bounty of legumes. Fava beans, haricot vert, and English peas are favorites. English peas add a delicate sweetness to pasta dishes and salads, while fava beans can be mixed with rich herb-infused oils and spread on top of toasted bread for an outstanding crostini appetizer.
Using vegetables wisely to add flavor, color, and textures to your dishes will make your meals more dynamic and enjoyable than plain old meat and potatoes.
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. FInd her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.