As a longtime member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, I am always amazed when I pick up my share and discover a new or usual vegetable that would rarely, if ever make it into my grocery store shopping cart. It reminds me that there is more to life than kale, asparagus and broccoli. Sure, it's easy to fall into the routine of cooking up your favorite, no-fuss meal, but it can be invigorating to branch out and try something new. Experimenting with new ingredients is one way to keep food, including the good-for-you stuff, exciting. Bonus -– you introduce your body to a variety of new, nourishing ingredients.
Considering this is the heart of the growing season in many regions of the country, it's a great to time to push yourself to think outside the box. Looking for inspiration? Here are a few suggestions. These five underappreciated vegetables deserve some love. A visit to your local farmer’s market to pick up a new-to-you ingredient is also incentivizing when it comes to exploring new foods. The important thing is that you have fun.
Also called "ladies' fingers," there's more to this veggie than its slimy reputation. Rich in fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants such as vitamin A and C, you can control the texture/slime-factor by varying the cooking technique. Be it green or reddish-purple, okra tastes great simply sliced and sautéed with other seasonal vegetables such as corn and tomatoes. Another simple preparation would be to roast it, whole, with oil, salt, pepper and seasonings like smoked paprika. Browned and slightly crisp, you can eat it as is or add it to a salad or side dish.
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Often referred to as the alien in the CSA box, kohlrabi is a versatile, nutrient-dense veggie. Naturally fat-free, it's loaded with fiber, potassium and immune-boosting vitamin C. Crisp and juicy, it's a member of the brassica family (such as cabbage and cauliflower) and actually has a similar flavor if eaten raw. Uncooked you can shred it and pair with apples and citrus for a unique spin on slaw. Roasted or sautéed kohlrabi results in a creamy texture that pairs well with fresh herbs like dill and flavors like mustard.
It's common knowledge that dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses, and that doesn't stop with kale. A natural multivitamin, mustard greens are slightly spicy, even bitter, with a spunky, peppery flavor. Sauté them with something sweet like dried cherries to balance the sharp flavor. They also taste great incorporated into dishes such as soups, stews or even lasagna.
Red, Napa, Savoy, Chinese cabbage and more, this inexpensive member of the brassica family is versatile and majorly good for you. It's rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, has cholesterol-lowering capabilities and contains nutrients such as glucosinolates, polyphenols and glutamine that promote digestive health.
Simply slice it thinly and incorporate it into a variety of raw preparation, such as salads or summer rolls. Cooked, the possibilities are endless as you can grill it, roast it, braise it or even sauté it. Cabbage works well in soups, stews and stuffings to boot. Considering it's plentiful, cabbage loves to be pickled and preserved for later use, too.
There's more to this gorgeous, glossy vegetable than simply breading it, frying it and coating it with cheese -- yum. Eggplant, which is rich in free-radical scavenging antioxidants, loves to hang out with international seasonings -- think curry. Roasted it can be pureed into a dip like baba ganouj(sh) or eaten as is. Grilled it can be paired with ingredients such as tomatoes, goat cheese and fresh basil. Sautéed and stewed, it absorbs whatever flavors you introduce, such as Moroccan or Indonesian spice blends. You can stuff it, roll it or slice it for a world of possibilities.