Such a wonderful sign of spring, and this is yet another opportunity to make good use of this harbinger of much more to come.
Not used very often, but lovely addition in some dishes
These came in great variety. We have used the traditional bean sprouts, as well as soy sprouts and broccoli sprouts. They're a wonderful addition, especially in many Asian dishes.
Whenever appropriate, I like to use beets. I prefer to cook them from their fresh state, rosy-purple hands and all.
It seems there is an infinite variety of types of onions, each in some way indispensable. These are no exceptions.
This lettuce has a very tender leaf. The full head is often quite small. It's wonderful for certain salads, such as Salade Nicoise. Tender field greens may be substituted. However, when called for, Boston lettuce is the preferred choice.
Mmmmmm, what a wonderful vegetable. It's especially wonderful in some sauces because its little florets really hold the sauce. We use it in a great variety of ways for good reason.
These are just miniature cabbages. I do like the way they look and am also a big cabbage fan in all its varieties.
This is one of our staple vegetables for Thanksgiving. We don't have butternut squash very often although whenever we do we're reminded of just how delicious it is, simple and unadulterated with the exception of some butter. My mother-in-law wouldn't have.considered having Thanksgiving Dinner without a squash pie, a particular favorite of my father-in-law's. This pie is similar to pumpkin, though a slightly different consistency, and much milder flavor. It is easy to understand why this squash would find its way into a pie; at its best, this squash has a natural, and quite intense, sweetness.
Ah, the wonders of cabbage. I use it for so many different dishes. It's often an ingredient in soup. Of course, there's cole slaw. And then, just sliced very thinly, with onions sliced just as thinly, softly sauteed in olive oil or butter until the vegetables just begins to carmelize. That's a wonderful winter-time dish, delicious with baked potatoes for a wonderfully satisfying, simple meal.
There are some wonderful uses for canned tomatoes. In fact we've found that some pasta sauces taste better with the now-available "recipe ready" tomatoes than with fresh. Canned tomatoes also make for some very quick and still tasty meals. We wait for special prices on our favorite brand and keep a pretty good store on hand.
Carrots go from appetizers through dessert. Though they are a vegetable, they definitely have a sweetness that lends wonderful balance to a tremendous variety of dishes.
I usually buy "hearts of celery" which may seem a bit tame. I find that's what works best in our kitchen. I use celery in so many different types of dishes, both uncooked and cooked. I've come to revere its place in my cooking.
These have a taste all their own. Even the red, yellow, and orange varieties have individual tastes. Their flavor adds much of importance to any dish which requires them.
There are only two kinds of frozen vegetables I buy: peas, and corn (not mixed because I use them in different ways). Somehow their taste seems less affected emerging from the frozen state. There are a few recipes that call for one or the other, or sometimes both. Using the frozen peas does make for speedy preparation. Try "Shepherds Pie" in a wonderfully satisfying vegetarian version. Also, "Corn and Pea Salad" is an excellent side dish which adds just a little crunch to a meal.
I use cucumbers somewhat sparingly, mostly because of their high water content and, therefore, tendency to water down their fellow ingredients. However, their fresh taste, and gently crunch are just the right complement to certain dishes. The best cucumbers are small, and somewhat emaciated looking. The pickling variety is a good choice.
Though I rarely use eggplant, I do think it adds a lovely softness and silken texture to a dish.
Garlic is great.
Green beans are a versatile ingredient for a number of recipes, both as a main dish and also as a side dish. It's so important to cook them to the correct point for each recipe. We choose the baby string beans when we're having the beans as an unadorned side dish; such beans should be cooked briefly just until bright green. For stewing, we choose the mature pods bulging with fully developed beans within. Then we cook the beans, most often in a tomato based sauce until the sauce is almost absorbed and beans are somewhat limp and full of the sauce's flavor.
Green chili peppers have a special place in norther New Mexican cuisine. They are often fire roasted and then peeled. They are usually available in "medium" or "hot" variety. Their unique flavor contributes wonderful taste to a great variety of dishes. These chiles can be ordered over the internet with just a little investigating, well worth the effort.
Though not many of the dishes I prepare contain green peppers, when called for, nothing serves as a substitute.
I'm not too knowledgeable on the subject of Greens. They come in such a wide variety of types: Mustard, Collard, Beet, Kale, and many more I'm sure. I really like them all, simply sauteed, or combined with other ingredients. They do have distinctly different tastes, and, so far I like all of them I've tried.
Iceberg lettuce has its place. We use iceberg leaves for most sandwiches. We also prefer iceberg lettuce for our Chef's Salads.
There is wonderful variety in the onion family. Leeks have a place of their own. They have a sweet earthy flavor with an affinity for potatoes and subtle sauces.
I've really come to depend on the many varieties of mesclun mix available in most food stores. Some of the mixes are much better than others. I find my favorite mix of leafy greens at a garden market, happily within walking distance of our home.
Though I've always liked mushrooms, they have a special place in my cooking since becoming a vegetarian. Their taste and texture add a kind of "meatiness" to some dishes. Also, the variety of mushrooms is wonderful. I'll note which variety I recommend in each recipe.
We use these in a variety of ways and find them indispensible to those recipes that require the pimento stuffed variety of olive.
These provide wonderful flavor to many dishes. I think they are particularly important in vegetarian cooking, at least the kind we do.
My only reservation about this utterly necessary member of the onion family, is the great disappointment we feel when we find that what we thought was a sweet onion turns out to be anything but sweet. We do find the Vidalia variety quite reliable, also the Texas variety we've found more recently.
My first experience with using oyster mushrooms was in New Mexico. I was visiting a Farmers' Market in Albuquerque and one of the booths had these freshly picked mushrooms that looked too wonderful to pass up. I was inspired to call a friend who was happy to let me prepare a pasta dish at her home that evening. It was great fun and very delicious. See: "Albuquerque Farmers' Market Pasta."
I seem to have a particular fondness for root vegetables, in unison or combination. Each root has its unique taste, parsnips somewhere between carrots and turnip.
Peas are one of the two vegetables I buy frozen; the other is corn. At least once during their harvest season, I thoroughly enjoy buying fresh English peas,pods and all. The freshly prepared peas certainly have added flavor and texture However, just barely cooked frozen peas are very close in both categories.
Once a year we enjoy fresh peas, a sure sign that summer is really here.
Dill pickles are both an indispensable condiment and also ingregient in a number of the dishes we prepare.
We use the Bread & Butter variety, just a little sweet with the sour.
These are wonderful for salads as well as certain hot dishes. There is no need to peel since the skins are very thin and tender. Care needs to be given not to overcook red skins, since they need a little less cooking than other types of potato.
Potatoes are a staple ingredient in our household. We make a practice of varying the starches we use for meals, and potatoes fit wonderfully into the mix. In fact, one of our simpler fall/winter meals is a very generous sized Idaho potato, well-baked, and then served with a variety of toppings, some of which may include, diced tomatoes, green peppers, sweet onions, tomatoes, also sour cream with thinly sliced scallions, and crisply cooked Morningstar brand Breakfast Strips. Truly yummy. Then we add a side dish or two, depending on the hunger factor. Left-over potatoes also add a lot used as an ingredient in certain baked goods, particularly some yeast breads.
This wonderful vegetable makes my favorite Thanksgiving pie. It also makes my daughter's favorite Thanksgiving sweet bread. I've tried using freshly cooked and pureed pumpkin, but for me, the result from the canned pumpkin is much preferred. For pumpkin soup, I use fresh pumpkin.
While I prefer canned pumpkin for pies, fresh pumpkin is the better choice for main dish recipes.
I've found, over the last few years, that peppers in all their different shapes, colors, and especially flavors, have become a staple in our kitchen. Each variety has its own important part in a given recipe.
Don't let the name scare you. These are somewhat difficult to peel and slice but worth the effort. They work well in a surpisingly wide variety of dishes, including one of my favorites, a Chinese dish along with stringbeans and a number of other delicious ingredients.
Although we use sauerkraut infrequently, there's no substitute when it's called for, particularly in our version of Grilled Reuben Sandwiches.
Scallions, or green onions, or spring onions are a staple item in our kitchen. They really give a little zing to so many dishes, such as egg salad, fried rice, and a number of other dishes. I find they need a little air when stored in the refrigerator, so I either leave them out of a plastic bag, or not very well wrapped.
Shallots grow in cloves, something like garlic, and taste somewhat like a cross between onions and scallions. They seem to have an affinity with French cuisine. When called for and available, I like to use them. I have also substituted scallions and find the results very good.
We use these mostly in Asian dishes, although it is also good in some pasta sauces, and also, just steamed lightly with a hint of soy sauce as a side dish.
We like spinach in a number of different ways: plain, in a number of pasta dishes ... and a wonderful salad that we serve with steamed white rice, a delicious meal anytime of the year. When I saute it simply with olive oil, garlic, and a little lemon squeezed on top, the fragrance is reminiscent of seafood for some reason. Whatever its nutritional attributes, it's just a delicious vegetable.
We always buy fresh string beans. My mother used to have a wonderful garden, and she was very careful about preserving what she grew. String beans were always frozen. I have come to realize, though, that there is a huge difference between a frozen green bean, even if it had been home grown, and a fresh green bean, even if it was picked thousands of miles from here.
I understand this is not technically rice, but a vegetable gathered in marshy areas. I find this "rice" to add a welcome texture to our bread stuffing. I pre-cook it with some salt and butter so that the grains take on a little flavor of their own.
For Thanksgiving in our home, it's yams, not sweet potatoes. Such traditions are based on reason, I believe, though I'm not just sure what reason. All I know is, we don't tamper with our Thanksgiving yams. Really, it's the only time I use yams and we couldn't possibly do without them.
What cook doesn't need these? Very few days go by without peeling and slicing one or more of these.
The subtle flavor of summer squash stands by itself or in combination with other vegetables.
I respect the subtle taste of zucchini and try never to overwhelm it.