Simple Ways to Cook 20 Vegetables
I’m a vegetable lover. I eat vegetables at least three times a day: sautéed chard stirred into scrambled eggs for breakfast, a big garden-fresh salad for lunch and grilled corn and steamed potatoes as side dishes with dinners in the summer. I don’t have much trouble eating enough vegetables, but I know I’m the exception, not the rule.
Ninety percent of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, according to the USDA. The recommended amount for everyone age 9 and up is two to three servings a day. (For most vegetables, like green beans, a serving is 1 cup. For raw leafy vegetables, like salad greens, a serving is 2 cups.)
Are you one of those that need a nudge to eat more vegetables? Here are 3 reasons to fit more in:
- Lose weight: Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and recent research shows that consuming more fiber can help you lose weight.
- Reduce your risk of heart disease: You could cut your risk for heart disease by almost 25 percent, suggests one study, simply by adding 3 servings of vegetables (or fruit) to your daily diet.
- Fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease: Eating vegetables (and fruit) in a variety of colors provides you with a variety of phytochemicals, some of which act as antioxidants that may help prevent heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Probably the excuse I most often hear people give when they say they don’t like vegetables is that they don’t like how vegetables taste. I think it’s partially because those vegetables were overcooked (and mushy—ew) or not prepared in the tastiest of ways.
So here are foolproof ways to cook 20 favorite vegetables that bring out their best flavor. And since it’s summer, and many of these vegetables are at their ripe and delicious best, bursting with nutrients, it’s the perfect time to enjoy them! For all of these recipes, start with one pound of untrimmed vegetables. See our complete guide for How to Cook 20 Vegetables—with details on how to grill, bake, saute, steam, roast, braise or microwave your vegetable of choice.
Look for: Tight, small heads without browning or bruising.
Prep: Snip off tough outer leaves; cut off top quarter and trim off woody stem.
Grill: Halve artichokes, scoop out the choke if necessary, then toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Preheat grill. Place the artichokes over direct, medium-high heat and cook, turning once or twice, until tender, about 8 minutes.
Look for: Sturdy spears with tight heads; the cut ends should not look dry or woody. Fresh asparagus should snap when bent.
Prep: Trim off stem ends; shave down any woody bits with a vegetable peeler.
Roast: Preheat oven to 500°F. Spread asparagus on a baking sheet or in a pan large enough to hold it in a single layer. Coat with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until wilted and browned, about 10 minutes.
Look for: Small beets with firm, dark ruby or bright orange skins.
Sauté: Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Grate beets into the pan using the large-hole side of a box grater. Add 1 minced garlic clove. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Look for: Sturdy, dark-green spears with tight buds, no yellowing and a high floret-to-stem ratio.
Prep: Cut off florets; cut stalks in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch-thick half-moons.
Roast: Preheat oven to 500°F. Spread on a baking sheet or in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Coat with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until tender and browned in places, about 10 minutes.
Look for: Tight, firm, small deep-green heads without yellowed leaves or insect holes. The sprouts should preferably still be on the stalk.
Prep: Peel off outer leaves; trim stem.
Braise: Place sprouts and 1 cup dry white wine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cover and braise until tender, about 7 minutes. Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon; increase heat to high, add 1 teaspoon butter and reduce liquid to a glaze. Pour over sprouts.
Look for: Orange, firm spears without any gray, white or dried residue on the skin. The greens should preferably still be attached.
Prep: Peel; cut off greens.
Microwave: Cut carrots into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place in a large glass baking dish or pie pan. Add 1/4 cup broth (or white wine). Cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, about 3 minutes.
Look for: Tight white or purple heads without brown or yellow spots; the green leaves at the stem should still be attached firmly to the head, not limp or withered.
Prep: Cut into 1-inch-wide florets; discard core and thick stems.
Steam: Place florets in a steamer basket over 2 inches of boiling water in a large pot set over high heat. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.
Look for: Pale to dark green husks with moist silks; each ear should feel heavy, the cob filling the husk well.
Sauté: Remove kernels from cobs. Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add corn kernels; cook, stirring constantly, until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon white-wine vinegar before serving.
Look for: Smooth, glossy skins without wrinkles or spongy spots; each eggplant should feel heavy for its size.
Prep: Slice into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (peeling is optional).
Grill: Preheat grill. Brush eggplant slices lightly with extra-virgin olive oil. Place over medium-high heat and grill, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes.
Look for: Small, white, unbruised bulbs with brilliant green stalks and feathery fronds.
Prep: Cut off the stalks and fronds where they meet the bulb, remove any damaged outer layers, cut 1/4 inch off the bottom and remove the core.
Braise: Slice bulb into 1-inch pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel and 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine (or dry vermouth). Cover, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
Look for: Small, thin, firm beans.
Prep: Snip off stem ends.
Steam: Place beans in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large pot set over high heat. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.
Look for: Long, thin stalks that do not bend and are not bruised; the outer layers should not be wrinkly or dried out.
Prep: Trim off the thick green leaves, leaving only the pale green and white parts; pull off damaged outer layers, leaving the root end intact. Split in half lengthwise. Under cold running water, fan out inner layers to rinse out grit and sand.
Sauté: Thinly slice leeks into half-moons. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring often, until softened and very aromatic, about 5 minutes.
Look for: If fresh, look for firm, vibrant green pods without blotches and with the stem end still attached.
Prep: If fresh, zip open the hull, using the stem end as a tab. If frozen, do not defrost before using.
Microwave: Place peas in a glass baking dish or microwave-safe bowl; add 2 tablespoons broth (or unsweetened apple juice). Cover tightly and microwave on High for 2 minutes.
Potatoes, red-skinned or yellow-fleshed
Look for: Small potatoes with firm skins that are not loose, papery or bruised.
Prep: Scrub off any dirt (peeling is optional; the skin is fiber-rich and the nutrients are clustered about 1/2 inch below the skin).
Sauté: Peel potatoes (if desired), then shred using the large-hole side of a box grater. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes; reduce heat. Cook, pressing down with the back of a wooden spoon, for 6 minutes. Flip the cake over and continue cooking until browned, about 5 minutes more.
Spinach & Chard
Look for: Supple, deeply colored leaves without mushy spots.
Prep: Rinse thoroughly to remove sand; remove thick stems and shred leaves into 2-inch chunks. Rinse leaves again but do not dry.
Braise: Heat 2 teaspoons walnut oil (or canola oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add spinach or chard and toss until wilted. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth. Cover, reduce heat and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (or rice vinegar) over the greens.
Look for: Green, orange or white varietals with firm, smooth skins and no spongy spots.
Prep: Cut in quarters and scoop out the seeds.
Microwave: Place squash in a large glass baking dish; add 1/2 cup water. Cover and microwave on High for 15 minutes; let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Look for: Small, firm squash with bright yellow or orange skins that have green veins branching like lightning through them.
Prep: Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice into thin half-moons (peeling is optional).
Sauté: Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add squash slices; cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in a pinch of grated nutmeg before serving.
Squash, Summer & Zucchini
Look for: No breaks, gashes or soft spots; smaller squash (under 8 inches) are sweeter and have fewer seeds; do not peel, but scrub off any dirt.
Prep: Cut off stem ends.
Grill: Cut squash lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. Preheat grill; brush strips lightly with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Place over direct, medium heat; grill, turning once, until marked and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Look for: Papery skins with tapered ends.
Roast: Preheat oven to 500°F. Halve sweet potatoes, then slice into 1/2-inch wedges. Spread on a baking sheet or in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Coat with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until browned and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Look for: Smaller turnips with firm, white skins; they should feel heavy. The greens should preferably still be attached.
Prep: Cut off the root end and the greens; peel, then cut into thin slices.
Sauté: Cut turnip slices into matchsticks. Heat 1 teaspoon each butter and extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add slices and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 12 minutes.