If you’re still preparing your vegetables the way your mother and grandmother did, you may be missing out on a whole new world of flavors and textures.
“Traditionally it’s all about blanching, boiling, steaming and sauteing,” JW Marriott Executive Chef Bruce Knapik said. “We’re a little more into oven-dried things right now.”
And that’s only the beginning. Chefs and home cooks are giving new life to vegetables by roasting them, grilling them and cutting them into ribbons for use as a healthy stand-in for pasta.
Roasted cauliflower has become somewhat popular in the past few years, but Brett Uniss, chef de cuisine at Honey Salt, still was surprised by customers’ reactions when they added it to the menu as a side dish.
“We didn’t expect it to be as popular,” Uniss said. “It doesn’t rival macaroni and cheese, of course, but it does really well.”
Honey Salt’s roasted cauliflower is tossed with kale, Parmesan and pine nuts.
“It’s something that’s really simple, and the flavors are great,” he said. “As soon as we put it in the wood oven, it’s a completely different dish.
“I think one of the things about cauliflower is that on its own, if you just blanch it, since it’s a cruciferous vegetable, you get that gassy smell to it. When you roast it, with the sugars that are in the vegetable, that caramelization really starts to concentrate. Instead of it being a bland, pale vegetable, you get this crispy texture, and the sugars, which everybody is predisposed to liking.”
Knapik said when he’s cooking at home, he likes to prepare vegetables on the grill.
“A lot of people are doing it now,” he said, “with asparagus, different types of onions, stuffing tomatoes and cooking them on the barbecue. Another thing that works is to take a lot of root vegetables — turnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, whole garlic cloves; you can put mushrooms in there, too — make a foil pouch out of it, add salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil. Put it on the barbecue, flip it once or twice.”
He also grills stuffed portabella mushrooms, taking sausage out of its casing and mixing it with onions, tomatoes and bread, then stuffing the mushrooms and cooking them on the grill.
“You can put a little ricotta cheese in it,” he said. “You can cut them up and serve them as an appetizer.”
In the resort’s Japanese restaurant, they’ve prepared beets in a very offbeat way.
“We actually cooked them very slowly at a low temperature in olive oil,” Knapik said. “Borderline confit, 200 degrees for about 40 minutes, based on the size of the beet. Just until you can put a toothpick in it and it’s just cooked. Cool it 100 percent, toss it in cornstarch or corn flour and deep-fry. We serve it with a beet puree.”
Knapik and Uniss said more vegetables are being pickled.
“I think it’s one of those old-school things that people are starting to look to a little bit more,” Uniss said. “People are recognizing old foodways such as canning and preserving.”
The Feast Buffet at Red Rock Resort features as many as 15 vegetable dishes at any time, many of them prepared in unconventional ways.
“It gives us a chance to do some really different things and highlight a lot of seasonal vegetables, which is great, because they have higher quality and better flavor,” said John Kujundzich, room chef.
For the salad bar, he said, they’re grilling a lot of vegetables and then cooling them before serving.
“Broccolini or just plain broccoli, asparagus, top them with a little bit of olive oil and lemon zest or lemon juice, they’re great,” he said.
Although they will do more roasting beginning in the fall, he said, buffet chefs are now roasting rainbow carrots — yellow, purple, orange and white — with a little bit of brown sugar, parsley and fresh thyme.
At Wild at the Ogden in downtown Las Vegas, sous chef Judy Dezarn-Mack said Emily’s zucchini pasta is a popular dish. It was named, she said, for a downtown photographer who lives close to the restaurant, grew up on the dish and asked the chef to update it. The dish requires the use of a vegetable “spiralizer”; Dezarn-Mack said the one she bought on Amazon.com, where they’re as low as $25, came with four blades.
The dish starts with mushrooms, tomatoes and basil for a vegan version, with Parmesan added for a vegetarian version, and marinara sauce for some body. The vegetables are sauteed in olive oil. Then the “spiralized” zucchini is blanched for about 5 seconds in boiling water and added to the saute pan.
“It’s a light, tasty meal,” Dezarn-Mack said. “It’s filling, but it’s not heavy. You can’t believe it’s good for you.”
She also did a vegan version using raw zucchini, along with a sauce of fresh tomatoes, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and olive oil.
“It went faster than anything,” she said. “It’s awesome for summertime here in Vegas, when it’s 110 degrees.”
Another thing perfect for summer was the vegetable treatment Honey Salt staff did for an event in which they helped children learn how to use the produce from their gardens. The cooks made a green vegetable juice and served it with the output of an ice-shaving machine.
“We made a snow cone with the vegetable juice,” Uniss said. Considering that the treat usually is high in sugar and low in nutrients, he said, “it was just the opposite of a regular snow cone.”
GRILLED ZUCCHINI AND LEEKS
WITH WALNUTS AND HERBS
1/3 cup walnuts
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise with some root attached
2 large zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
½ cup (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toast walnuts in dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Chop very coarsely. Toss warm walnuts with garlic, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.
Brush leeks and zucchini with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5 to 8 minutes for leeks, 8 to 10 minutes for zucchini.
Transfer vegetables to a cutting board. Trim roots from leeks and cut leeks and zucchini into bite-sized pieces. Add vegetables and parsley to bowl with walnuts and toss to combine. Season vegetables with salt, pepper and more lemon juice, if desired.
— Recipe from Bon Appetit
GRILLED GREEN BEANS
12 ounces fresh green beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal or gas grill.
Lay out a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spread the beans on the foil in a single layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the beans. Sprinkle on the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold the foil over and crimp the edges to create a tightly sealed packet.
Grill the beans until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Take care when opening the packet, because it will be filled with steam. Serve hot or at room temperature.
— Recipe from “Good Cheap Eats” by Jessica Fisher
1 medium head cauliflower (2½ to 3 pounds), cut into 1½-inch-wide florets (8 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Toss cauliflower with oil and salt in a large bowl. Spread in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and roast, stirring and turning over occasionally, until tender and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.
— Recipe from Gourmet
STEAMED VEGETABLE RIBBONS
4 large carrots
8 small zucchini
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon pepper
Trim ends from the carrots and zucchini. Use a vegetable peeler to make long thin strips down the length of each carrot and zucchini, making long ribbons.
Place carrots in a steamer basket. Place in a large saucepan over 1 inch of water; bring to a boil. Cover and steam for 2 minutes. Add zucchini; cover and steam 2-3 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Transfer vegetables to a bowl. Add the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat.
— Recipe from Taste of Home
ROASTED VEGETABLE MACARONI AND CHEESE
3 cups diced peeled eggplant (about ¾ pound)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced (about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup all-purpose flour
2¾ cups 1 percent low-fat milk
¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp provolone cheese
¾ cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about 12 ounces uncooked)
Dash of paprika
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large shallow roasting pan; toss well. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Place flour in a large saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Add provolone cheese, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in roasted vegetables and macaroni.
Spoon mixture into a 3-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Combine remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and paprika, and sprinkle over macaroni mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
— Recipe from Cooking Light
Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at email@example.com or 702-383-0474. Follow at HKRinella on Twitter.