Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hiding your veggies

I'm lucky. I love vegetables and I've converted Jon into loving them too. But not everyone is so forward thinking. I have loads of friends who just "don't like vegetables." And I'm not alone. This month in Bon Appetit there was a whole article about children not eating their vegetables. Jon loooooooooves it when I read articles aloud to him (does anyone else smell sarcasm here?), so I gleefully read him the entire article as the author denounced the latest trend in hiding vegetables in other foods.

…if you feed children vegetables hidden in macaroni and cheese, they will grow up learning to eat macaroni and cheese but not vegetables. It teaches them nothing about the pleasure of vegetables, nor does it celebrate the beauty and magic of nature. It teaches them nothing except, perhaps, to be distrustful of food because cooks sneak things into it or be distrustful of parents because they are deceptive.

Instead of sneaking vegetables into other food, I experiment with flavors, mixtures, and cooking methods. There are several aspects to vegetables that make them more or less appetizing relating to different senses. By playing with these sensory perceptions, you might change your perception of vegetables completely!

Sight: There is nothing more attractive than a bright steamed head of broccoli. The green reminds me of spring time. Think about how bright and cheery peeled carrots are. Or sliced red bell peppers. Unfortunately certain methods of cooking tend to dull these colors and make the food less appetizing looking. I'm still not won over by dull cauliflower and it rarely makes it to our table.

Texture: I am throughly disgusted by aspargus. To me, it will always be limp and slimey. When I think of it, I always picture the canned stuff or steamed limp spears. However, raw asparagus is much more appealing to me. I love fresh carrots, celery, and jicama because of that great crunch you get when you bite into them. And one of my favorite treats is popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth (and yes, I know tomatoes aren't technically a vegetable). Jon didn't think he liked veggies because his dad always boiled them which destroys both the texture and the flavor. But steamed or roasted veggies that still retain their firmness get rave reviews.

Taste: I'm not going to lie. Vegetables don't taste like candy. In fact, as the Bon Appetit article suggests, most vegetables are bitter and persons who are (duh duh duh daaaaah) "Super bitter tasters" tend to like vegetables less than your average joe. But no fear because there's a solution to this too! No one said veggies have to be boring! I LOVE brussels sprouts. Jon hates them. Well, Jon thought he hated them. Then one day I sauteed them with some honey mustard and all of a sudden he couldn't get enough. Both roasting and sauteeing vegetables with sauces, spices, or even just some garlic and salt can completely change the taste and make the vegetables less bitter.

Here's a great spinach (one of my all time favorite veggies) side dish that satisfies all three perception issues.
Sight: Look how pretty and green it is! Perfect for an upcoming holiday! Its like a bright lime!

Texture: It'd be weird to say spinach panna cotta, or spinach yogurt, or spinach pudding, but it gives an idea of the consistency. Smooth and creamy. Like creamed spinach - but better. It melts in your mouth like buttah. It's even better than spinach dip!

Taste: Spinach is one of those bitter bitter vegetables, but its SO good for you! And everything tastes better when its drenched in garlic! The garlic flavor here complements the spinach, and a little olive oil drizzled on top will make you feel like it might even be pasta like!
Spinach Custard
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup fresh spinach leaves
1/3 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 large egg
1/3 Tbsp mashed roasted garlic (I use the recipe in the B&G cookbook and always keep some in the fridge)

1) Preheat oven to 325. Butter 2 ramekins and place in metal baking pan. Fill medium bowl with ice water.
2) Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove cream from heat.
3) Add spinach, salt, and white pepper, and stir until spinach wilts. Place saucepan over ice water; stir to cool mixture quickly. Pour cooled spinach mixture into blender.
4) Add egg and roasted garlic. Blend until spinach is pureed and custard is smooth. Divide custard between ramekins. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
5) Bake custards until gently set in center, turning pan after 30 minutes for about 45 minutes total.
6) Cut around custards to loosen and turn out onto plates. Drizzle with EVOO.

Serves 2.
Each serving has:
Calories 315.2
Total Fat 31.6 g
Cholesterol 213.8 mg
Sodium 1,220.6 mg
Potassium 150.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 3.9 g
Protein 5.2 g


  1. I find my previous aversion to vegetables was mainly due to issues of texture. I don't like mushy or slimy textured vegetables. So, I now like many of the vegetables I would literally gag on as a child.

    Good suggestions!

  2. Kate, this so pretty! I love spinach too- we eat it raw as our veggie side all the time. I don't know it this is quite health food with the cream, but boy it looks delicious! And I LOVE the drizzled oil- it looks like restaurant presentation!

  3. I can't wait until Wan reads this.

  4. shut it, monkey.

    asparagus is one of my most favoritest things in the world! ha.

    and i quit the pureeing, dude. i couldn't convince myself that the stuff was yummy, let alone the kid and the hub. :X

  5. ^laughing at the w-club.

    i like veggies. probably because my mom made them perfectly tender crisp, we grew up on even more bitter asian veggies, and there was always garlic somehow involved. i'll have to think about the spinach custard...unless you make it for me and make me try it. ;)

  6. {paying extra attention and taking notes]

    But come on, you knew I would be given the topic =)

    I promise to try it in next weeks menu!

  7. Heavy cream always makes veggies better. :)

  8. good 'ol sauteed spinach with a bit of olive oil, lemon, garlic and pepper is the best stuff ever!

    have you tried roasted asparagus? the recipe in the B&G cookbook is simple and delish. just be sure if you use super skinny spears to drastically reduce the cooking time. otherwise, it's one of favorite side dishes in our home.