Early last year, I decided to give a vegetarian diet a try. I’ve always struggled with the moral issues around eating meat, and felt that moving away from an animal based diet, to one of a plant-based diet, would be best for me. I was a vegetarian for over a year, and then slowly started introducing meat back into my diet. I still rarely eat meat, and plan to continue a primarily vegetable based diet, but every now and then I do enjoy a meat dish. I still feel bad about eating animals, so I try really hard to make sure that the meat that I do eat is sustainably and ethically sourced. However, since becoming a vegetarian, I have found a new appreciation for vegetables, so I thought I’d do a Friday Favorites post on my favorite vegetables!
1. Brussel Sprouts
I know what most of you are thinking about brussel sprouts. They’re bitter, and small cabbages, and really tasteless. And, for the longest time, I would have agreed with you. But then, I came across some good recipes, and learned how to cook brussel sprouts, and now they’re my absolute FAVORITE vegetable of all time! Roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, salt and pepper, are fantastic in so many ways. They’re a great side dish, they’re fantastic cut up in cold salads, and I even use them as the main toppings for one of my favorite pizzas (roasted brussel sprout pizza with potatoes and goat cheese…YUM). Sure, they get a bad rap, but I’d encourage you all to go out there and try them again, because they really can be amazing!
Eggplant, or aubergine, is another highly overlooked vegetable (in my opinion). Eggplant parmesan sandwiches were a huge staple in our house during my year of meat-free living, and we still enjoy the vegetable regularly. I really enjoy it breaded and baked (never fried), with spicy marinara and fresh mozzarella melted on top, but it’s also fantastic just grilled with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I also use eggplant quite often in my Couscous with Seven Vegetables recipe which I got from the cook of our riad in Morocco. J and I will also eat leftovers that were grilled and put into the fridge, as a topping for pizza or cold salads. Another favorite is a roasted vegetable sandwich, in which eggplant plays a starring role, along with onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and feta cheese!
In the Netherlands, people anxiously await the spring because it brings with it “aspergeseizoen” or asparagus season. Both green and white varieties are celebrated there, and they even have specific recipes that include asparagus. One staple recipe is the asparagus soup (which is divine) and another is its chlorophyl-free counterpart, white asparagus served with thinly sliced ham and soft-boiled eggs, with a lemon butter sauce. Here in the US, we still eat a ton of asparagus, and it isn’t quite as seasonal as it is there, though we do eat the most of it in the summer. Grilling the asparagus stalks or roasting them in the oven are our two primary ways of cooking it, though each Easter I do make the Dutch white asparagus, complete with soft-boiled eggs and roasted potatoes, and that delicious butter and lemon sauce. It’s quite a special treat, and one that we look forward to every year, especially because it brings back such fond memories of our lives in the Netherlands.
Ok, this one is cheating, because technically it’s a fruit. I don’t care, I still love it. It’s creamy, it’s got fiber, and it tastes amazing with some salt and lemon juice. Avocado is a go-to adder for a lot of our recipes at home. We’ll dice it up and add it to salads, we’ll smash it onto toast with an egg for a quick breakfast, and I’ll even eat it plain for a snack (either topped with lemon juice or some balsamic vinegar). The healthy fats in the avocado add to heart and brain health, and it also improves the absorption of certain nutrients by up to 400%. Another way we eat them at home is to add them to our protein shakes in the morning. The velvety texture really adds smoothness to the shakes, plus you can’t really taste the avocado if you are adding other ingredients. I only started eating avocado a few years ago, prior to that I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor, but I’m so glad I gave it a second try. Now, it’s one of our go-to snacks in the house and we always have one or two of them ready to eat!
Last, but surely not least, is my love affair with artichokes. These are another staple in our house, either raw or in their jarred variety. I’ll put them on anything: pizzas, salads, couscous or quinoa…pretty much, if I’m making something that has any sort of mediterranean flavor to it, I’ll add artichokes. My favorite is my Mediterranean couscous salad, which I make with whole wheat couscous, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and feta. It’s basically a “chop everything and add together” type of salad, and it keeps in the fridge well for next day’s lunch. We’ve also really liked them lightly steamed and then grilled for a side addition to our main meal. I’ve come across a few stuffed artichoke recipes that I’d love to try, but haven’t given them a whirl yet. Once I do, I’ll be sure to post back here in a recipe post, because I’m sure that we’ll love it! While we really enjoy the marinated variety, I’ve found that some of the jarred, marinated artichokes have a high sodium content, and lots of additional fat from the oils, so you should be careful if you’re buying the jarred artichokes. Be sure to read the label, because you never know what else is in the jar if you don’t look at the ingredients!
There you have it, my top five favorite vegetables (ok…four vegetables and a fruit)! What are your favorites? Also, if you have some recipes that include my vegetables above that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about them!