As vegans, we’re often expected to be more enamored with vegetables than anyone else on the planet. And, in most cases, we are, as it’s not unusual to hear us extolling the virtues of our favorite veggies to anyone who will listen. But sooner or later, we have to admit to ourselves that we don’t love all vegetables equally. That said, there’s no need to fret because the trick to developing an appreciation for undesirable foods is to cook them in ways that brings out their best qualities. With this in mind, we’re highlighting five ways we cook vegetables that too often get a bad rap.
1. Brussels sprouts
If you can recall a time in your childhood when these miniature cabbages were served mushy and overcooked, then it would make sense that you would never want to touch one again. But as objectionable as Brussels sprouts might have been when you were young, you can change your attitude toward them in a instant. Brussels sprouts taste best roasted in the oven for a short time at a high temperature. The end result is a crispy texture reminiscent of French fries (yes, really!). Simply slice each sprout in half lengthwise, toss with a small amount of cooking oil, salt, and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan in a 425 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes. You’ll want to serve these immediately, but they’re so good you might find yourself sneaking a few before they get to the table.
Cauliflower is another vegetable that has a bad reputation, mostly for its unfortunate sulfurous smell when overcooked. However, the traumas of mushy, boiled-to-oblivion cauliflower you experienced long ago are no reason to continue to avoid this humble relative of broccoli and cabbage. In fact, cauliflower has exploded on the foodie scene recently, and you can find it on the trendiest restaurant menus, as well as in the grocery store, where it’s replacing rice, pizza crust, and more. And while you should certainly try all these fancy variations, cauliflower tastes just as delicious in a more simple preparation. Trim a head of cauliflower into florets of roughly the same size, and toss with cooking oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes. The cauliflower will get crispy and caramelize as it roasts—no mushiness here! Drizzle the florets with tahini, sprinkle some chopped fresh herbs, and get ready for a flavor explosion.
Speaking of foodie trends, this previously unknown leafy green has attained a cult following in recent years. You can find kale in everything nowadays, from smoothies and hummus to cupcakes and ice cream. However, kale can have a bitter flavor and has a very tough, sturdy texture which can make it difficult to chew. Luckily, there is a solution to tone down kale’s assertive nature. First, remove the thick fibrous stems and shred the remaining leaves by chopping them finely with a sharp knife. Next, prepare your dressing: mix tahini with lemon juice, salt, and roasted garlic. Thin the mixture with warm water, and pour this over your chopped kale leaves. Then, with clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale for a few minutes (massaging the kale will break down the leaves, which will make them easier to chew and reduce the bitter flavor). You can eat this delicious salad as-is or add extras such as dried cranberries, chopped avocado, and toasted walnuts. And just like that, kale becomes your new best friend!
Some people describe eggplant as slimy and sponge-like, and—I have to admit—before I started cooking it, I hated the greasy slices I’d find hiding in every veggie panini. That belief changed when I discovered baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern dip made from creamy roasted eggplant. Prick a medium-sized eggplant with a fork and roast in a 375 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Let it cool, then peel and discard the skin, placing the flesh in a colander to drain. Toss in a food processor along with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and a clove of garlic, pulse until combined, and serve with pita chips. Want to take it a step further? Try making your own eggplant “bacon.” Thinly slice a small eggplant into long strips and marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, smoked paprika, garlic powder, liquid smoke, and maple syrup for an hour. Then, remove from the marinade, and place in a 350-degree oven for approximately 15 minutes (or pan-fry in a little oil). Use your bacon to top salads, stuff inside vegan BLTs, or enjoy right from the pan (I won’t tell).
Beets have a taste that can be described as earthy if you love them and “dirt-like” if you don’t. They also have a naturally sweet flavor, which makes sense because sugar beets are actually used to make sugar. So, how can you learn to love these bright pink orbs? You can always toss chopped raw beets into your morning smoothie to give it a vibrant pink color (and you probably won’t taste them). But that’s the easy way out! To make beets into a crave-worthy food instead of your mortal enemy, make beet fries. First, drizzle scrubbed whole beets with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast on a sheet pan in a 375-degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Allow them to cool, then rub off the peels with your fingers (make sure to wear gloves because beets stain easily). Chop the roasted beets into cubes, coat with cornstarch, and pan-fry in oil until crispy. Sprinkle with salt ,and serve with vegan mayonnaise on the side.
Chloe Naidoo is a freelance content writer for vegan businesses and is passionate about promoting a healthy, happy plant-based lifestyle through her work.