Friday, June 1, 2012
Preparing Vegetables for Quick Use All Week Long
Yesterday I did a book review for Tamar Adler's book, An Everlasting Meal.
One of the chapters is titled, "Striding Ahead" and in it she describes how she roasts a whole booty load of vegetables in one afternoon and then uses those vegetables for the rest of the week. As with a couple of Adler's suggestions, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn't so sure how I'd feel about Monday's roasted vegetables come Friday. Furthermore, Adler goes all out, roasting several pans of various seasonal vegetables, sauteeing the greens from the tops of any vegetables containing greens (turnips, beets, etc.), and then saving the "ends" (peels, skins, cores, etc.) to make vegetable stock or a vegetable puree at the end. She claims that these roasted veggies can then be used in unconventional salads or as toppings for sandwiches or mixed into rice or cooked into omlettes or added to broth and pureed into soup. A little preparation should make a whole week worth of 15 minutes meals.
I went at it a little less enthusiastically. I had a fading head of cauliflower and a partial head of broccoli and a morning of cleaning. I figured I could clean and roast at the same time. And I did.
How to Roast a Vegetable:
-Cut them into even-ish pieces
-Coat them in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
-Lay them in a single layer on a roasting pan/cookie sheet (preferably with some space between each vegetable).
-Roast at 400-425 degrees, flipping them over when the bottoms are browned and then roasting till the other side is browned.
I admit that I like to get my roasted vegetables nice and roasty. I like the broccoli to be very dark brown at the edges and the tree tops. I like my cauliflower with some distinct color. So, don't fear the brown. It is your friend.
Let me take a moment here to make a Vegetable Lover's Deep Dark Confession. I don't really like broccoli. I like cauliflower in most forms--raw, boiled, steamed, or roasted. But broccoli I have never really loved. However, when I got married, broccoli was one of the very few vegetables Kip enjoyed and so all these years I have prepared and eaten it too. However, I must have it mixed into things--rice or a casserole or a soup. Just plain broccoli staring at me from my plate, it almost makes me gag to eat it. Yes, I said it. Me. The woman who has spent the last year and a half giving jabs to my husband and son for their extreme pickiness, I nearly gag on plain steamed broccoli with or without butter and salt.
That said, I will admit that this year I discovered roasted broccoli. And that--that I could eat--straight off the pan in a great big pile. Oh yes, I could. I ate a whole bunch of it the day I roasted that partial head of it. I knew that would be pretty good. But then I took a small leap of faith and I put the rest in the refrigerator to await my lunch and snack needs for the week. I really wasn't so sure I'd be loving my cold roasted vegetables, but Adler promised they would be delicious turned into salads or egg dishes or whatever else my imagination could conjure. I'm a big fan of leaps of faith because they often take me somewhere wonderful. This was no exception. Boy howdy were they ever good. I added a bit of mayo and sometimes a squeeze of lemon to make them into the topping for open-faced sandwiches. I made them hot and cold (meaning sometimes I nuked the roasted vegetables before adding to my sandwiches and sometimes I didn't). Both were incredibly good--intensely flavorful still from the roasting, and there and waiting for me every day when I got home from errands or whatever tired, grumpy, and really hungry. I ate them plain out of the jars. If I'd had more, I could have made all kinds of other things. For just little old me, those nearly two heads of vegetable lasted only 4 days. Not bad. Not bad at all. I began to see how preparing vegetables ahead could really bring forth a lot of good, cheap, super fast meals. I also saw how much more likely I was to actually eat a vegetable that had been pre-prepared. There was no way I would have eaten that broccoli had it remained as it was just sitting there in the crisper drawer.
Adler stores her roasted vegetables in glass mason jars so that she can tell what she has at a glance--separate jars for each vegetable so they keep their own flavors. It's a pretty good idea when you're "striding ahead" because otherwise you may well wind up with a lot of sketchy science fair projects. Since one of the main ideas of pre-prepared vegetables is to not waste that lovely lump of cauliflower, it's important to put them in your fridge in a way that they won't be forgotten after all. If you don't have glass containers, I recommend labeling them. I'm a pretty good labeler. And a pretty good rememberer. And a pretty good go-through-the-fridge-once-a-week-and-see-what's-in-there-er. But if you're not, use some glass (or even clear plastic) containers. I used old glass peanut butter jars and they worked great (as would old jam jars or artichoke jars or applesauce jars or just whatever). So you get to recycle and actually see what's in your refrigerator. Win win.
Which was the outcome of my striding ahead experiment. I didn't waste my vegetables. They made a week of delicious, really quick lunches. And it made me feel more confident about buying a large amount of fresh vegetables on sale and putting them to good use.