Kabocha pumpkin roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper makes for a delicous side dish to any meal. Photo: Nathan Kam
We know it’s important to eat a balanced diet, complete with a variety of vegetables chock full of essential nutrients that keep us healthy. Our parents explained this to us and our grandparents repeated the mantra. Now, Kelly and I, as parents, are “eat your veggie” cheerleaders as well. Thankfully, Ensen and Avery are fans of most fresh fruit and vegetables, so we don’t battle over this food group.
At dinner, we make a conscious effort to always have at least one veggie option on our table. Let’s face it, eating broccoli or salad three days in a row can get boring even for adults. The truth is, fresh vegetables can be exciting, delicious and craved, just by changing up the cooking technique and playing with seasonings. Let me explain.
Home cooks have the option of preparing vegetables in a variety of ways, such as steaming, boiling, sautéing, grilling or roasting. Each results in different textures and tastes that help to draw out natural flavors. Our family has managed to keep things interesting by using these varied cooking techniques.
Ensen loves his broccoli steamed or boiled for a softer texture, while Kelly, Avery and I love ours roasted for the crunchy, caramelized finish created by a hot oven. We use this same technique to prepare Brussels spouts, squash and root vegetables.
Sauteed beet tops with a little garlic not only look great, but taste great too.
I’d venture to guess that roasting is one of the more underutilized techniques in the home kitchen due to time and convenience. However, it’s become our favorite method. It’s also a great way to create a lot of flavor without messing with the vegetable. Simply add olive oil, salt and pepper and roast your veggies at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Easy, healthy and delicious.
Last, let’s talk seasoning. A little flavor goes a long way to make veggies highly desirable. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs, spices, acids, oils and cheeses to enhance the flavors. Roasted Brussels spouts with balsamic vinegar and olive oil taste heavenly, as does steamed broccoli with little toasted garlic chips or roasted broccoli with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Broke da mout!
When cooking squash, I like to add different spices and herbs such as curry, cumin, paprika, thyme, sage and basil. It takes the vegetable to a different dimension and can elevate a normally bland side dish to something a little sexier that pairs nicely with a main course.
Go ahead and play with your veggies. Change up the cooking techniques and add a little spice to your seasonal vegetables. Bon appetit!
Nathan Kam is a Honolulu public-relations executive, husband and a proud daddy of two incredible kids, Ensen (5) and Avery (2). He enjoys cooking, gardening, traveling, blogging and golfing. You can reach him via email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via his personal Kam Family Blog.