Easy Veggie Recipes for my too busy to cook photog buddies. I'm no cookbook writer, but these should all work pretty well as I make them all the time at home.
First - understand that I use all fresh produce with the exception of spinach (which is a way better deal frozen), and broccoli (which I buy in the microwavable packages). I’m lucky enough to have a weekly farmer’s market near my home and I also have a produce oriented grocery store that I buy from. Want great veggies? Start with fresh and be very very simple and it’s hard to go wrong.
Asparagus: I don’t know why but it’s a staple in my house. I use it in Pastas and I also cook it all the time on it’s own. Here’s some really quick, easy ideas:
Oh: The tall fancy asparagus steamer thing? Get rid of it. It’s way too easy to overcook aspargus when you steam it.
Some simple ingredients I always have on hand.
Olive Oil - Extra Virgin and Not Extra Virgin. I use EV as a flavor enhancer but not as a saute oil. The reason is the better your EV the more vegetable matter will be in the oil and the quicker it will burn. I buy most of my Olive Oil at Trader Joe’s where it’s much cheaper than the corner grocery.
Sea Salt and Black Pepper (in a mill). I buy sea salt at Trader Joe’s. I don’t know that it tastes better, but I salt by hand and it feels better and is easier to control. Make sure you get the rough - flaked stuff and not ground or rock. I have a cheap old Pepper Mill that works great and I love it.
(most of what I do needs only what’s above. For other things I have the following ingredients around).
Canned diced tomatoes. (I buy these in boxes of a dozen at Costco)
Vermouth: Sweet and Dry. Any store brand works fine.
Madeira: This little known fortified wine is the secret of the gods. It’s hard to find and you don’t want the cheap stuff from the stores. I buy mine at a local wine store that stocks some of the excellent Rainwater Madeira’s. (By the way - the most expensive bottle of spirits I’ve ever purchased was a 70 year old Madeira).
Spice Islands Brand Italian Herb Mix. Buy this and throw out most of your old, dead, dry herbs.
Onions and Garlic. (I use both fresh and dried and bottled depending mostly on my mood).
Parmesan Cheese. (I buy the pre-shredded stuff again at Trader Joes.)
Simply Roasted Asparagus: (This recipe also works great for Carrots - or Asparagus and Carrots).
Ready? This one is really hard! Here goes:
Leave the rubber bands on the Asparagus. Cut off the bases above the white portion and throw out (or mulch) the tough ends. Toss the spears in a bowl with a tablespoon or two (I never measure anything) of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pour out on a baking sheet and slide it in a pre-heated 400 degree oven. Check for doneness in about 10 minutes. (Carrots will take a little longer). If you want to disturb the veggies do so by tossing them with a spatula.
For asparagus they’re ready to serve when they’re still crisp but not tough.
For Carrots, drizzle a little honey on them when they come out of the oven. Pour in a bowl and serve. (by the way - you can use the little raw carrots that come in bags from the store if you want - I use these sometimes in a pinch).
Sautéed Asparagus (or Green Beans) with (or without) Onions, Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, or whatever.
Most people overcook their vegetables. I try to slightly undercook them which means that with the distractions of home cooking usually they turn out just about right.
Slice your veggies - Asparagus or Green Beans into 1-2 inch lengths.
Slice an onion into strips. (Halve it, then slice it through into whatever size you want).
Get a saute pan to medium hot and add olive oil. If you like garlic, sometimes I’ll add it with the olive oil just to flavor the oil. Just be careful not to let it burn as it gets bitter. Add onion to saute pan and saute until translucent. About 5 minutes. (Keep your burner on medium hot to keep from burning the onions.) When the onions start to look about right turn the heat up and add the veggies. Keep them moving in the pan. (If you have Vermouth (dry - white - for this), or Madiera add a dash of it now along with a dash of salt and pepper (or red pepper flakes). You can also add Italian Herbs if you wish. Saute the veggies - moving constantly - for about a minute, then turn the heat down to low, put the lid on and leave it alone for another five minutes for asparagus or another 8 minutes for green beans. (test them before you serve them). This whole recipe - start to finish takes less than 15 minutes of kitchen time.
Small Squash Sauteed with Tomatoes, Onions and a Little Wine. (use the smaller squashes you'll find - such as italian).
Cut up squash into bite sized chunks. Follow onion/garlic preparation from above. Add squash and saute for a minute, then add entire contents of a can of diced tomatoes. Heat until tomatoes are starting to boil, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for another five minutes or so. Season to taste and serve. (If you want, you can add a little of whatever wine you’re going to have with dinner to this. You don’t need much, 1/4 cup or so. It marries the flavors to your dinner.
Asian style Broccoli Florets.
Ok, Broccoli is another veggie I buy in the microwavable bags. Buying it fresh is a rip off because you pay for the stump you won’t use. I start by microwaving the broccoli according to the directions on the bag. I just undercook it slightly so I can finish it in the pan. When it’s done I pour it out into a bowl.
In a hot skillet I add green onions (chopped), and a dash of vegetable oil. When that’s screaming hot I add a tablespoon of garlic and saute for about 5 seconds, then I add the precooked broccoli and toss it all together. Last I add a dash of asian hot sauce and a dash of soy (instead of salt) and toss one more time before turning out into a bowl. Practice this once or twice and then do it when friends come over and they’ll think you’re a genius.
These are all very healthy recipes. All can be made in just a few minutes and all are simple, tasty sides. I have some other, more complex recipes, Little Lasagnas made with Eggplant, Homemade Roasted Tomato sauce and Goat cheese, for example, but these are among the best for quick, simple meals.