Here we are in a new year and I’m sure many of you made resolutions to eat more healthfully. And that means incorporating more vegetables into your diet. I know most people think vegetables are boring, but that is because they don’t give vegetables the same time and attention that they do a center of the plate protein. I believe a well-cooked vegetable is memorable, flavorful and is worthy of that coveted center plate position. In this cooking class, I will teach you some techniques to use to create the most delicious vegetables.
Let’s get cooking!
Steaming and boiling vegetables is perfectly okay, but if you really want to develop some flavor, try roasting them. You can roast any vegetable. You simply need to make sure that you are roasting similar vegetables together. For example, carrots and broccoli or mushrooms and asparagus, we do this because they will take around the same amount of time to cook. This way you won’t have a perfectly roasted carrot and an over-cooked mushroom. Another tip is to cut the vegetables that you are going to roast all the same size. Again, this will allow ALL the vegetables to cook at the same pace.
To roast vegetables you will need: a large mixing bowl, large baking sheet, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic puree (equal parts garlic and canola oil blended together). Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut your vegetables; place them in the mixing bowl.
Next, drizzle them with olive oil and toss until they are well coated. You want to lightly coat the veggies with oil. Now, salt and pepper to taste. Finally, if you want garlic flavor add about one teaspoon garlic puree and toss. We use garlic puree because the canola oil blended in with the garlic keeps the garlic from burning. Spray your baking sheets with oil and put your vegetables on it in a single layer. Cook them for about fifteen minutes. You want them caramelized and still al dente. Once roasted you can add lemon, fresh herbs, butter, grated Parmesan or reduced balsamic vinegar. Experiment and add any of your favorite flavors.
Next, we will talk about how to sauté vegetables. With this technique you will want to sauté a single type of vegetable at a time. This is because I have a trick to make sautéed vegetables sing and that is to add the juice of the vegetable that you are sautéing. This technique works best with carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, radishes, beets, broccoli and salsify.
For this you will need: a large sauté pan, one and a half pounds of a vegetable of your choice (I will be teaching the technique using carrots) cut into two inch pieces, two tablespoons olive oil, ½ cup juice of the vegetable you are cooking, ½ cup low sodium or homemade chicken or veggie stock, salt, pepper and ¼ teaspoon unsalted butter. If you don’t have a juicer you can simply buy unsweetened, pure vegetable juice. So, for this recipe, if you don’t have a juicer, buy a bottle of carrot juice. If you do have a juicer, hold back two large carrots and juice them. Once you have cut all your vegetables, mix your vegetable juice with ½ cup stock and keep nearby.
Now, put the olive oil in your sauté pan and put your heat to medium-low. Add the carrots and sauté for five minutes. Next, add three tablespoons of the juice/stock mixture and stir. What we are going to do is cook these vegetables in a risotto style, that is, we will slowly add in the juice/stock a little at a time as we continue to cook the vegetables.
Once the juice/stock is absorbed, add another three tablespoons. Continue adding the juice/stock mixture and stirring for about eight minutes, until the carrots are al dente.
Once you reach this point, keep stirring until the pan is almost dry or au sec. Au sec is a French cooking term that means the liquid in a pan has been reduced until it is nearly dry. At this point, put in the ¼ teaspoon unsalted butter and stir. This small amount of butter will add a touch of richness that really sets off the flavor of the carrots.
Finally, salt and pepper to taste.
Vegetables do not have to be boring. In fact, I find vegetables very exciting. Use these techniques and you can make vegetables the star of the show. As with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what creates delicious.
Chef Ivan Flowers brings 25 years of fine cuisine experience to Top of The Market, San Diego. Prior to becoming Executive Chef at Top of The Market, Chef Flowers owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.