Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Eat your vegetables

As much as I love to cook, most of the time I get home from work and don't want to spend more than maybe half an hour on dinner. But I still want something that looks like a meal and is reasonably healthy. So dinner usually follows my 'rule of three' - (1) protein source [chicken, fish, tofu], (2) vegetable, (3) whole grain [brown rice, quinoa]. Sometimes I combine the three, like in a stir-fry over rice, but it looks so nice and wholesome and All-American Dinner-y when you prepare them separately.

I like to keep my veggies simple; if you buy good fresh produce, it doesn't need much help to taste good. Here are a few of my favorite easy sides:

Microwave steamed garlic broccoli
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper*

Remove the peel from your clove of garlic, then mince and mash it. (To remove the peel, lay your knife blade flat on the clove and pound it with your fist a couple times. Mashing the garlic with your knife blade after mincing releases more flavor, but you don't have to do this.)

Cut up your broccoli heads into bite size pieces and stick them in the bowl with the garlic. Add 1-2 Tbs. water (depending on how much broccoli you're making; 1 Tbs. per cup of broccoli is good), a little salt and pepper, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave 30 seconds on high. Stir and check doneness, microwave additional 10 seconds if it's still too stiff. Repeat until you reach the desired softness.

This method also works for kale, spinach, green beans...

[Note: I cannot emphasize enough how using freshly ground pepper will change your life. It's totally different from pepper shaker pepper. Seriously, go out and buy a $5 grinder. Right now.]


'Grilled' asparagus
olive oil
salt and pepper
half a lemon or about 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Cover a cookie sheet in tinfoil (this is optional, but it means you don't have to wash the cookie sheet when you're done). Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the sheet [I actually buy a spray can of olive oil from Trader Joe's, which is perfect for this purpose]. Snap the big ends off of the asparagus, and then lay the spears out on the tinfoil. Drizzle or spray with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. If you have half a lemon, slice it thinly and place the slices over the asparagus. If not, sprinkle a little lemon juice over them instead. Stick these under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes (when the tips start to get dry, they're done), and serve.

If broiling isn't your thing, you can cook them in a saucepan instead. Heat up the oil (or 1/2 Tbs of butter) on medium heat, put in the asparagus and lemon slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook 5-10 minutes until tender. This method ALSO is great for kale or green beans.


Glazed carrots
1/4 lb. carrots (2-3 medium)
1/2 Tbs. butter
1/4 c. ginger ale OR
1 Tbs. sugar + ~2 tsp. freshly grated ginger + 1/4 c. water
pinch salt

This is a bastardized version of Alton Brown's very good Ginger Ale glazed carrots - we made this recipe so often that we wanted a cheaper alternative to fancy and expensive ginger ale. Anyway.

Chop the carrots width-wise (into 'medallions'). Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the carrots and ginger ale (or sugar/ginger/water). Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir and reduce heat, re-cover and let simmer 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and turn up the heat, cooking another 5 minutes (or until the liquid has boiled off) with occasional stirring/tossing. Salt and pepper to taste, of course, and serve ASAP. The ginger ale/ginger+sugar leaves a nice sweet glaze on the carrots.


uglyagnes said...

those carrots sound so good, i'm going to try them soon!

Caroline said...

I guess I wonder what "good quality ginger ale" is. I guess I always thought Schweppe's was the good stuff!

E-man loves baby carrots, so I just may have to try this- more original than just honey and brown sugar!

Jackie said...

Schweppes would probably work just fine. :) We used to have the Reed's stuff, which has a stronger ginger flavor.