At the farmers market I overheard a customer ask a vendor, “What can I do with this?” while holding up some leafy greens. Another benefit of shopping at these markets, besides the freshness of the produce and supporting local farmers, is the education and ideas on how to turn vegetables into culinary superstars.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet is a simple way to make meals more healthful. A new buzzword in the food world is “plant-forward” cooking. It simply means making plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes the majority of our plates. In fact, you probably eat plant-forward meals without even realizing it. “It’s all about letting vegetables and other healthy plant foods become the stars,” says Aramark Chef Andrew Bergholtz. “And there are countless delicious ways to achieve that.” For more about going plant-forward visit https://bit.ly/2v4J2JD.
Many of us grew up where salad was only served as the first course of the meal, sort of an “amuse bouche” to awaken the palate. l remember salads prepared with iceberg lettuce, a wedge or two of tomato, a couple of slices of cucumber, onion and, perhaps, some croutons and imitation bacon bits sprinkled on top. Oh, and don’t forget the bottled salad dressing, laden with preservatives. Today, especially during the hot weather, it can be the entire meal, prepared with a plethora of different greens, vegetables, herbs, fruits, beans and myriad toppings. Homemade dressings are so simple to prepare, too, using ingredients you probably have on hand.
If there is only one book on your cookbook shelf devoted to vegetables and salads, it has to be “Vegetables Illustrated: An Inspiring Guide with 700+ Kitchen-Tested Recipes,” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (2019, America’s Test Kitchen, $40). The inspiring collection of recipes can’t help but assist you in incorporating more vegetables in your diet. I’ve already broadened my horizons with the tips and techniques to make the most of vegetables’ versatility. Chapters are organized A to Z, from artichokes to zucchini. It’s not just recipes. Each of the 70 vegetables covered includes an introduction to the vegetable, shopping and storage suggestions, information on available varieties, and illustrations showing the best preparation methods to get ready to cook the recipes that follow. I focused on the many salad recipes for now. I look forward to trying the soup and side creations.
I found the feature called “Vegetables Reimagined” quite helpful. The step-by-step photos and instructions walk through highlighted recipes chosen for their techniques. For example, transform parsnips into a rich, spice-infused hummus using the microwave. Or discover how to use freshly cut corn kernels to make a lusciously creamy sauce for pasta. America’s Test Kitchen’s signature recipe headnote, “Why This Recipe Works,” provides helpful information, a reason I enjoy America’s Test Kitchen publications. If you are like me, you are always on the lookout for more interesting and tempting ways to prepare your favorite vegetables. With the ever-expanding variety of produce you find at the farmers market, “Vegetables Illustrated” will become your source for so many innovative recipes. You might even give some ideas to the farmer at the market!
Check out these summer-perfect recipes. For the recipe for wilted spinach salad with warm bacon-pecan vinaigrette, visit https://bit.ly/2JsIQcd.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: The smoky char of the grill brings a whole new dimension to plain old Caesar salad. To develop good char and maintain crisp lettuce without ending up with scorched, wilted, even slimy leaves, we used sturdy, compact romaine hearts, which withstood the heat of the grill better than whole heads. Halving them lengthwise and grilling on just one side gave them plenty of surface area for charring without turning limp. A hot fire meant that the heat didn’t have time to penetrate and wilt the crunchy inner leaves before the exterior developed grill marks. Our boldly seasoned Caesar dressing replaced the raw egg with mayonnaise. It was so good that we got the idea to brush it on the cut side of the uncooked lettuce instead of olive oil, allowing the dressing to pick up a mildly smoky flavor on the grill along with the lettuce. For the croutons, we brushed baguette slices with olive oil, toasted them over the coals, and then rubbed them with a garlic clove. We combined the lettuce and croutons, drizzled on extra dressing, dusted everything with Parmesan, and called tasters. The salad disappeared. With apologies to Shakespeare: It’s not that we love Caesar less, but that we love grilled Caesar more.”
For the dressing: Combine lemon juice and garlic in bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Process lemon-garlic mixture, mayonnaise, Parmesan, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, anchovies, salt, and pepper in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly add oil until incorporated. Measure out and reserve 6 tablespoons dressing for brushing romaine.
For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
For a gas grill:Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
For the salad: Clean and oil cooking grate. Brush bread with oil and grill (over coals if using charcoal), uncovered, until browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to serving platter and rub with garlic clove. Brush cut sides of lettuce with half of reserved dressing. Place half of lettuce, cut side down, on grill (over coals if using charcoal). Grill, uncovered, until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to platter with bread. Repeat with remaining reserved dressing and lettuce. Drizzle lettuce with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve. Serves 6.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: It’s not hard to find recipes for corn salad, but it’s surprisingly hard to find a good recipe. The standard preparation method—stripping kernels off the cob, adding vegetables (usually tomatoes, onions, and/or peppers), and tossing with dressing—produced salads that were not up to snuff. Instead, browning the kernels lightly in a skillet for a few minutes gave even inferior, out-of-season corn a complex, nutty dimension. As for the dressing, it took equal parts oil and vinegar to create a dressing that balanced the sugary corn. Don’t add the tomatoes to the toasted corn until it is cool, as otherwise the heat from the corn will partially cook them”.
Toss tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt in bowl, then transfer to colander. Set colander over bowl and let drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until spotty brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and stir in scallions, vinegar, remaining 11/2 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Stir in drained tomatoes and parsley. Let sit until flavors meld, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Replace tomatoes with 2 cups watermelon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and 2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Stir 1 cup crumbled feta cheese into cooked and cooled corn. Replace parsley with 1/4cup minced fresh mint.
Omit parsley. Replace white wine vinegar with 11/2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir in 2 cups chopped baby arugula and 1 cup crumbled goat cheese with tomatoes.
Replace white wine vinegar with 11/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Toss 1 (15 ounce) can rinsed cannellini beans with vinaigrette and hot corn. Replace parsley with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil.
The headnote says: “Why This Recipe Works: Bring the sunny Mediterranean right to your dinner table with this colorful salad. In a reversal of what you might expect, we used sliced grapefruits and oranges as the base, topping them with the thinly sliced radicchio. To tame the bitterness of the grapefruit and prevent its ample juice from overwhelming the other components, we treated the grapefruit (and the oranges) with sugar and salt and let them sit for 15 minutes. Draining the seasoned fruit enabled us to preemptively remove the excess juice, and reserving some to use in the simple mustard and shallot vinaigrette for the greens helped to make the salad more cohesive. Salty smoked almonds added mellow richness, and chopped dates contributed sweetness. We prefer to use navel oranges, tangelos, or Cara Caras here.”
Cut away peel and pith from grapefruits and oranges. Cut each fruit in half from pole to pole, then slice crosswise ¼ inch thick. Transfer to bowl, toss with sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain fruit in fine-mesh strainer set over bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons juice. Arrange fruit in even layer on serving platter and drizzle with oil. Whisk reserved citrus juice, shallot, and mustard together in medium bowl. Add radicchio, 1/3 cup dates, and 1/4 cup almonds and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange radicchio mixture over fruit, leaving 1 inch border of fruit around edges. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup dates and remaining 1/4 cup almonds. Serves 4 to 6
Milford Craft Beer Tour, July 20, $15 includes shuttle transportation between venues, one free 8-ounce pour each at Tribus and Milford Point and 25 percent off the tab at SBC Three sessions to choose from on each of the dates; tickets must be purchased online at https://bit.ly/2xFvjY7. Other dates: Aug.3 and 17.
“Helping Others Now” House of Naan, 65 Howe St., New Haven, 203-562-6226; 25 percent of food and bar sales will be donated to different charitable organizations. July 21-27: Bollywood’s Musical Film Festival, benefiting Tommy Fund — Smilow Cancer Hospital. July 28-Aug. 3: Bites On a Board Tasting benefits Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter fund. https://bit.ly/2JsvDjK
Kids Culinary Camp — Baking Wars (ages 5-11), July 22-26, 10 a.m.-noon. Chef’s Emporium, 449 Boston Post Road, Orange, $55. Reservations 203-799-2665, $250. If your child loves baking competitions on the Food Network, then this camp is for them! Stir-up, bake-up and decorate cupcakes, cookies and mini cakes of all sorts using pastry chef techniques, piping bags and fondant. The chef might throw in a twist or two, such as ingredients that must be incorporated or only being able to decorate with your left hand. This class will let each child’s creativity run wild! For the week’s agenda and tickets, visit https://bit.ly/32joZUo. Teens Culinary Camp-Baking Wars (12 years+) July 22-26, $250, 1-3 p.m. For the week’s agenda and tickets, visit https://bit.ly/2XHy62I.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner: “Deadlier Games” July 26, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489 https://bit.ly/2O3TQzQ, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Wear your most outrageous hat to compete for prizes.