Most people agree that eating more vegetables is a good idea. Those who consume a lot of veggies enjoy health benefits from clear skin to a lower incidence of some chronic diseases. But what’s the best way to prepare your veggies?
There are reasons for and against every cooking method imaginable: raw, steamed, boiled, canned, roasted, or grilled. But though some might say it doesn’t matter how you cook (or don’t cook) your veggies, as long as you eat (plenty of) them, there are definitely methods that make the most of the taste, and nutrients of vegetables.
Raw or steamed veggies are often touted as superior but some researchers insist that gentle cooking can actually leach out important nutrients, like lycopene. There is also evidence that suggests eating veggies along with a fat such as avocado, or full-fat salad dressing increases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients as opposed to eating veggies plain or with a low-fat or fat-free dressing.
Hearty roasted veggies like squash and sweet potatoes are great on a snowy winter night, but in the summer, vegetables like corn, eggplant, zucchini, and fruits like peaches, apricots, and pineapple practically beg to be grilled and luckily there endless variations on how. I love this grilled Romaine hearts with lime avocado dressing, adapted from Epicurious.com.
2 romaine hearts, washed, trimmed, and sliced in half
1 clove of garlic, chopped up
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
For the dressing:
1 ripe avocado
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
½; teaspoon agave or honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender or food processor until creamy. Add more water if the mixture is too thick. Add salt to taste. To grill the lettuce make sure your grill isn’t too hot, you want medium to low heat. In a small cup mix the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush this mixture on the cut side of the lettuce. Place face down on the grill for about a minute until grill marks appear on the Romaine and the leaves start to wilt. Flip over, repeat and serve topped with dressing.
I asked some Vineyard chefs and foodies for their favorite grilled veggies and here is what I got.
Madeleine Ezanno is a personal chef on Martha’s Vineyard, a graduate of The Natural Gourmet in New York City and a certified raw vegan chef. She emphasizes the importance of organic and local ingredients in her philosophy and in her cooking. “I try to use as much Island-grown produce as possible,” she says. “ I believe that our bodies are dynamic and no specific diet will work for everyone at all times.” With every meal she cooks, Ms. Ezanno strives to nourish her family, friends and clients with fresh, colorful, vibrant food chock full of nutrients. Here is her recipe for sweet-curry grilled fruits and veggies.
1 sweet white onion, cubed
2 zucchini sliced lengthwise
2 yellow squash sliced lengthwise
1 bunch of scallions, washed
1 portobella mushroom , sliced
mix of orange, red and yellow bell pepper, quartered
2 fresh apricots, sliced in half
2 fresh peaches, sliced in half
4-5 fresh whole figs
For the marinade:
8 oz. of goat yogurt (or my homemade coconut yogurt)
juice of 1 orange
dash of chili pepper flakes
2 tbsp. of sweet curry powder
1-2 inches ginger, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a blender (or hand blend). Place veggies in one large mixing bowl and fruit in another.
Pour ¾ of the marinade on veggies and the rest on the fruit and combine. Allow the fruit and veggies to marinate, covered, for at least and hour, then fire up the grill. Fruit takes less time, so grill the veggies first. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the fruit and veggies and serve.
Sarah Waldman is a Vineyard-based health coach and the author of the fantastic foodie blog www.twobluelemons.com.
“Grilling is awesome,” she says. “It’s simple, no fuss, you can use any veggie sitting on your counter, at the farmer’s market or from your CSA box. Plus high heat and a little crisp burnt edge bring out the veggie flavors.”
One of her favorite recipes that she likes to make for her two-year-old are these Parmesan asparagus fries. Ms. Waldman’s active toddler can eat them on the go and she can call them fries, which she says “is music to any kid’s ears.”
1 bunch asparagus
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat the grill. Trim the asparagus ends to where the spears naturally snap. Toss spears with olive oil and salt.
Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a hot grill and cook for 7-12 minutes, rotating throughout, or until crisp around the edges.
While asparagus grills, grate Parmesan cheese onto a large tray. Roll roasted asparagus spears in cheese, gently shake off excess, and lay on a clean platter. Allow cheesy spears to rest so Parmesan adheres, about 5 minutes, then gather a bunch of pieces and place in parchment paper cones for festive serving.
Cathy Walthers is a private chef, cooking instructor and author of three cookbooks, “Greens, Glorious Greens!”; “Raising the Salad Bar: Inventive Salads with Beans, Whole Grains, Pasta, Chicken and More”; and “Soups + Sides.” This is a recipe that she tasted before it appeared in Fresh Magazine, a bi-monthly publication put out by Hannaford stores. Ms. Walthers gives two thumbs up to this balsamic grilled veggie recipe.
2 summer squash
1 ¾ cups balsamic vinaigrette
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 1/2 inch thick strips
1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb.), ends trimmed
2 (6 oz.) pkg. portobella mushroom caps, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1 red onion, peeled and cut into five thick slices
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½; tsp. kosher salt, or more as needed
2 tbsp. finely chopped, flat-leaf Italian parsley
1/3 cup goat cheese or feta crumbles
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Trim the ends from the zucchini and squash. Cut each zucchini and squash in half lengthwise. Then cut each long half into quarters lengthwise, making eight long pieces from each squash. Pour 1 cup of the dressing into one or two 11×15 baking pans, spread over the bottom of the pan.
Add the zucchini, squash, peppers, and asparagus to the pan, tilting to coat the vegetables. Add the onion and mushroom slices. Drizzle the remaining ¾ cups of dressing over the vegetables. Stir gently. Starting with the onions and ending with the red peppers, place the vegetables onto the hot grill. Close the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables are well marked. Using tongs, turn the vegetables and season with the salt and pepper. Close the grill and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes until done. Transfer the asparagus, zucchini and squash to a large platter. Follow with mushrooms, onions and pepper. To serve, garnish with parsley and cheese crumbles
Carlos Montoya is the chef at the Sweet Life Café in Oak Bluffs. While he spends his nights searing fish and grilling steaks, at home he’s all about the veggies. Fallon Aiello, his partner and mother of his two adorable kids, is a vegetarian. This is a grilled eggplant spread, similar to baba ganoush.
2 large eggplants
1 large red bell pepper
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
½; cup tahini
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp. chopped dill
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. mint chiffonade
Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Preheat your grill and move the charcoal over to one side of the grill. Lightly brush the eggplant with olive oil then poke holes in the flesh with a fork (this keeps the eggplant from exploding while on the grill.) Cover the grill. Turn the eggplants every few minutes to keep them from burning. Simultaneously grill the red bell pepper till the skin is charred. (You do not have to pierce the pepper.) The eggplants will take about thirty minutes and will be soft to the touch when done. Place the eggplants and red bell pepper in a large mixing bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap. Let the grilled veggies sit in the bowl for about 20 minutes. The steam created will help the skin on the eggplant and red pepper release from the flesh making it easier to peel off.
While you wait, sweat the diced onions in a small sauté pan on the grill with olive oil until they are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Set aside.
Remove plastic wrap from the mixing bowl. Peel the skin off the red bell pepper and remove seeds, then dice into small cubes. Put back in mixing bowl.
Remove the skin from the eggplants. Place eggplant “meat” and ½; cup of tahini paste in a food processor for one minute. Place eggplant mixture in mixing bowl with pepper. Then add onion and garlic. Finish mixture with the lemon juice, zest and herbs. Gently mix and season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or room temperature with pita chips.