How to Make Cheap Vegetables Taste Good

Who wants to eat them? I know, they sounds awful, dreadful, and even worse--boring. Examples of inexpensive vegetables are carrots, onions, cabbage, and many others like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash. In order to make my experience with these foods palatable, I often choose a vegetable that I consider my nemesis and find a way to make it delicious. This is a great exercise because it shows you that a flavor you dislike can actually be desirable. You just have to give it some style. 

Before you stop reading, it's worth interjecting here to mention that often our dislikes can be attributed to the recipe in which we encountered them because the flavor was too strong, too bland, or implemented a less desirable cooking method for the given ingredient.  Also, often our perceptions are tainted by childhood memories. The only time my mother spanked me was when I wouldn't eat my broccoli, so is that why I have disliked it for so long? It's possible. Or maybe it is because it is usually steamed to the point that the flower buds fall apart and it lacks any sauce to balance its bitterness. So let's figure out the first steps to making these veggie monsters taste good. 

There are dependable cooking techniques for various foods that are important to know. Most root vegetables, for example, respond well to roasting, which requires little prep to bring out their best flavors. The high temperatures bring their natural sweetness to the forefront, while minimizing bitterness, and the caramelization also adds an appealing complexity.

Pickling can also be a great strategy and is often overlooked because it sounds difficult or people are unsure how to use the final product. I often do my own version of super fast pickling, most commonly for onions, carrots, beets, and garlic. You also can pickle whole or minced garlic. Generally, I prefer my pickling vegetables sliced thin (about 1/8 inch using a mandolin) but you can choose the size. Then, I place the chopped vegetable in a glass jar and fill the jar with 1/2 Braggs apple cider vinegar and 1/2 water (this is a strong but delicious and healthy mix). If you like, you can add more than one vegetable, or your choice of herbs and spices, or even choose an unusual vinegar like Umi plum vinegar. These vegetables are great additions as sides to meals, or garnishes for soups or salads, or in sandwiches. Here is a delicious recipe for tacos with pickled vegetables (coming soon). Be sure to keep your pickled vegetables in the fridge and they will last for several weeks.

Below are a few recommended methods to use with common vegetables. Of course, these vegetables can all be cooked a plethora of other ways and still be delicious, but as a rule, these methods are dependable.

Onions: roasted, sauteed/caramelized, pickled

Other Root Vegetables (beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions, etc.): roasted, pickled

Tubers (sweet potatoes, yams, etc.): roasted, stewed, soups

Cabbage: soups, stews

  • Recipe example: Andoulli Sausage with Cabbage and Caramelized Onions (coming soon)

Squash: roasted, soups

  • Recipe example: Butternut Squash Soup (coming soon)