Tuesday, March 15

The Holy Trinity for Cooking Vegetables

The world tends to revolve around the number three.

There are significant clusters of three: the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three parts to an atom—protons, neutrons and electrons, three primary colors and three trimesters in pregnancy. And of course there's the insignificant: Larry, Moe and Curly, three flavors in Neapolitan ice cream, three minutes in a boxing match and a three-legged race.

Three just makes sense. It seems balanced somehow which is strange since it's an odd number, but things gravitate towards it anyway.

So it's no surprise that it's also the secret to cooking tasty veggies. We all need to eat more veggies and I firmly believe most people don't because they haven't been taught how to prepare them properly. We're seduced by the convenience of steamer bags and canned goods. "Just pop in the microwave for 3 minutes and enjoy!" the advertisements exclaim. Honestly, it's tough to enjoy steamed vegetables. They may be quick, but what's the point of serving them if no one eats them.

I'd like to introduce you to my holy trinity for cooking veggies—olive oil, salt and pepper. That's it. That's all you need. And forget the steamer and the microwave too. Use your oven or your stovetop and get ready to prepare some yummy vegetables your family will actually eat.

The Basic Technique

Of course the basic technique has three steps, how could it not? And each step begins with a C, making this technique the three C's—Cut, Coat, Cook.

(1) Cut up your veggies of choice
(2) Coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper
(3) Cook

The only decision you have to make is, Should I bake them in the oven or saute them on the stove? I've made that a bit easier for you with the list below.

Vegetables good for roasting in the oven (any hard, solid vegetable)

Broccoli (425 degrees, 20-25 minutes)
Potatoes (375 degrees, 30-40 minutes) (a mix of sweet and regular potatoes is particularly good)
Cauliflower (400 degrees, 20-30 minutes)
Cherry tomatoes (375 degrees, 15-20 minutes)
Peppers (450 degrees, 30-40 minutes)
Asparagus (450 degrees, 7-10 minutes)

Note: The cooking times are estimates and will depend on the size of the vegetables and how "done" you like them. It'll take a bit of practice to zero in on how you like to prepare them.

Vegetables good for sauteing on the stovetop (any soft vegetable)

In this technique instead of coating the vegetables beforehand, I simply heat olive oil in a pan on the stove, then add my veggies and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, chard)
Yellow squash
Green beans (They're better if you blanche them first, meaning par cook them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes before sauteing them.)

Once you've mastered the holy trinity you can begin adding extras to really amp up the flavor. My go-to extra ingredients are garlic and onions. So I typically have a holy quintet—olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and onions. If you like Italian seasonings try adding a little oregano, thyme, rosemary or basil. If you like spicy food try adding a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Experiment and have fun.

Happy cooking!

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