The vegputer

Like the average omnivore, I partake of only a small fraction of the edibles in my ecosystem. (By “ecosystem,” I mean QFC.) In particular, while I eat a lot of vegetables, there are plenty of them that I pass by time and time again, and those that I do make tend to show up in the same forms repeatedly. Like this:

  • Asparagus: Roasted with olive oil, S&P.
  • Brussels sprouts: Halve, brown, braise in stock or water.
  • Carrot: Roasted (baby). Sliced and sauteed with butter, cumin, ginger.
  • Cauliflower: Slice, roast.
  • Cucumber: Salad to go under pan-roasted salmon.

  • Zucchini: Slice into coins, brown, toss with grated Parmigiano.

I can think of few vegetables that I routinely prepare in more than one way, and plenty of vegetables that I almost never buy–and I’m not talking about Good King Henry, Iceplant, or Lizard’s Tail, all of which I learned about on Wikipedia’s list of vegetables. Possibly someone made them up.

No, I’m shy when it comes to eggplant, spinach, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and even lettuce. I have a lettuce-related plan, so I’m going to start with winter squash. My usual complaints are that it’s too sweet and too hard to prep. But I have a butternut squash on my counter, plus a recent Fine Cooking recipe for sauteed cubes of butternut squash which looks like it might have enough caramelization and acid to overcome my first objection, at least. I’ll report back.

15 thoughts on “The vegputer

  1. Stephanie

    Am so glad for this post and hope you do report back (on the lettuce plan too) often and with recipes.

    After reading Pollan’s “Unhappy Meals” I was inspired to investigate the plant species I am and am not eating and to do better, not just for health, but also for new tasty treats.. but this is hard and I couldn’t find the easy button online that would allow me to select what I eat and have it tell me how I’m doing and then to give me ideas.

    I could use some inspiration.

  2. Nicole

    Well, we don’t do the traditional side dish vegetable. Our vegies always end up in our main course, in one way or another. Since we only do a main dish, and no sides, there would be no other way to eat them.

    Anyway, we regularly use some of those vegetables that you say tend to be avoided in your kitchen. Winter squash. Now, I eagerly anticipate the first coming of butternut squash thanks to this WONDERFUL recipe we’ve found – creamy winter squash risotto. The sweetness of the squash blends very nicely with the arborio rice and parmesan.

    However, I do have to agree with you on eggplant. Just not my thing – no matter how many different ways I’ve tried it.

  3. heather

    we joined an organic CSA with some vegetarian friends…that’s been superfun, and kind of forces us to figure out veg we haven’t otherwise encountered.

    i’m someone who, as a kid, when my mom told me i could have ANYTHING i wanted for dinner on my birthday, chose lima beans.

    and still, it’s been entertaining to figure out what we’re going to do with turnips…lots of beets (plus greens)…more greens and herbs than i can shake a stick at (and i majored in stick-shaking)…okra…squash of myriad types…

    it pretty much rules. and in case you’re wondering what the best use of organic blood oranges is? zest ’em into blueberry pancakes, then use the juice to make mimosas. mmm.

  4. mamster Post author

    Thanks for the comments.

    Nicole, I like eggplant, mostly, but am intimidated by cooking it. Last time I tried, it was an eggplant parmesan recipe that I realized partway through was an enormous project, so I scrapped it and made something else. I guess it’s okay to have certain foods that you only like when somebody else cooks them.

    As for vegetable main courses, I like them and am perfectly happy with dry fried green beans and rice, or caramelized onions on pizza. The problem is you-know-who. Since Iris doesn’t really like any vegetables except tomatoes, I don’t want to make them part of the main course; I’d rather have them be a side dish that she can dip into when she’s ready.

    That said, she does like spinach when it’s inside meatballs or ravioli, and she won’t object to the brussels sprouts (nor will she eat them) if I made brussels sprouts and butter into a pasta sauce. Actually, now that I think about it, I made this for you once.

    And can you share the squash risotto recipe?

    Patricia, I often do put parmesan on the asparagus. Sometimes a squeeze of lemon. Kale is one of my all time favorite vegetables. My standard practice is to braise it until tender with onion, olive oil, and curry powder. I have never roasted a sweet potato, but I will do it for you.

  5. Liza

    Butternut squash was one of my iguana’s favorite foods, and with a good vegetable peeler and careful squash selection (as tubular as possible), they’re easy to peel. Or maybe it gets easier after the 10th year of peeling a squash a day.

    I haven’t made it in awhile but there’s a coconut milk/squash soup recipe in Hot Sour Salty Sweet that’s awesome. I think they use pumpkin but it’s too much of a pain to peel and de-seed, so I’ve always made it with butternut.

  6. Neil

    I’m terrible about cooking and eating veggies (like most people, I guess), and I’ve also not been a big fan of eggplant. However, I did find an excellent and super easy recipe called “Strange Flavor Eggplant” that I will try to find and post when I get a little more time later.

  7. Jim Dixon


    Here are a couple of ideas:

    Zucca agrodolce

    Peel, seed, and cube a butternut squash

    Saute a couple of diced garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of sea salt, add a couple of finely chopped anchovies and cook briefly, then add cubed squash. Cover and cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is almost done.

    Add a splash of marsala, about a tablespoon of sugar (demara works well, and you can adjust the sugar depending on whether you prefer things more dolce than agro), and another splash of vinegar (preferably wine vinegar, red or white are both fine). Stir together and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or so.

    Rapini with pancetta

    We’re getting a lot of early spring broccoli raab (aka rapini) at the farmers market right now. Trim the stems a little, then drop a bunch into salted boiling water for a few minutes. Remove, drain, and chop coarsely.

    Saute a quarter cup or so of chopped pancetta (or any other form of fatty pork belly product) in a little olive oil, add diced garlic or onion and cook briefly, then add the rapini. Cook for another 10-15 minutes (I prefer the rapini to be tender, but some like it more brightly colored, which means it’s a little underdone by Italian standards).

    This is great by itself and really good with pasta. Red pepper is a nice option.

    You might also try cooking unpeeled, diced eggplant in a very hot cast iron skillet with a minimal amount of olive oil. Or roast it whole (poke a few holes in it) for middle eastern-style salads.


  8. Nicole

    This recipe comes to us from “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” put out by Murdoch Books. And by the letter C.

    Carrot and Pumpkin (squash) Risotto

    3 oz butter
    1 onion, finely chopped
    8oz squash, diced
    2 carrots, diced
    64 fl oz veg stock
    2 cups arborio rice
    3 oz Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated (we use the Parm)

    Heat 2 oz of the butter in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the onion and fry for 1-2 min. Add the squash and carrot and cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. Mash slightly with a potato masher. In a separate saucepan keep the stock at simmering point.

    Add the rice to the vegetables and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until the grains are translucent. ladle in 1/2 cup hot stock and stir well. Reduce the heat and add the stock little by little, stirring constantly for 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is tender and creamy.

    Remove from the heat, add the remaining butter and the cheese. Add pepper if desired and fork through. Cover and leave for 5 minutes before serving.


  9. Neil

    Strange Flavor Eggplant from “Cold Weather Cooking” by Sarah Leah Chase

    1-1/2 lb eggplant
    3 TB veg oil
    2 tsp sesame oil
    3 minced garlic cloves
    2 TB chopped ginger
    3 minced scallions
    1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
    3-TB brown sugar
    1 TB rice wine vinegar
    1 TB lemon juice
    2 TB chopped cilantro

    Bake whole eggplant (pricked all over with a fork) coated with oil at 425 F until very soft. let cool.

    peel eggplant and puree in food processor until smooth.

    Saute garlic, ginger, scallions and red pepper flakes in oils for about a minute. add soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and bring to a boil. add eggplant and simmer for 3 minutes. remove from heat and add lemon juice and cilantro.

    Serve warm over rice or room temp as a dip with pita chips. Really easy to eat a lot of this stuff.

  10. Neil

    Crap – the blog software reformatted my ingredient list. Hope you can still make it out.

    Oh, and it take 30-40 minutes for the eggplant (about 2, medium) to bake till soft enough.

  11. ts

    I left a Good King Henry growing in my yard when I moved – I never had the guts to try eating it though it grew and grew despite keeping it to a pot in the ground. Never found anything to say it was a true edible – but I stopped looking a few years ago.

  12. mamster Post author

    Neil and Nicole, I fixed your ingredient lists, and I’ll see if I can disable the features that made it happen. And I’ll make the recipes–probably the eggplant first, since last time I offered Iris risotto, it was pretty unsuccessful. Then again, that was a while ago.

    ts, according to Wikipedia, “Good King Henry has been grown as a vegetable in cottage gardens for hundreds of years, although this dual-purpose vegetable is now rarely grown and the species is more often considered a weed.”

    Thanks for all the great suggestions, and by all means keep them coming.

  13. Chris

    When I was a kid, my sisters and I would eat spinach if Mom steamed it, cooled it, and dressed it with something involving soy sauce. It’s still green, which might be Iris’s main objection, but we found it edible.

    Can’t wait to hear about the grand lettuce plan!


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