How to Cook Vegetables (and Fruits!) Like a Pro

Between May and June, we get to celebrate salad, dairy alternatives, fresh fruit and vegetables and the LGBT movement. The gay vegan nerd in me is totally geeking out right now.

Flying the rainbow flag is fun, but nothing makes me happier than letting my creative juices flow in the kitchen. Especially when I have a fridge full of fresh produce on hand to transform into any number of delicious plant-based dishes.

As someone who’s never met a fruit or vegetable I didn’t like, I’ll admit to being suspicious of people who refuse to eat my favorite food. I mean, why on earth wouldn’t you want to eat cauliflower or eggplant or rocket or avocado?

What I’ve come to realize is that for a lot of people, it’s not so much that they don’t like fruits and vegetables, but rather that they don’t know what to do with them.

It’s understandable, when you consider that the difference between a slightly crunchy and super tasty broccoli floret and one that’s mushy and tasteless is three minutes and a splash of soy sauce.

I’m not offended by overcooked vegetables, but then, I’m not everyone. So let’s look at what it takes to cook vegetables that also taste yummy.

How to Cook Vegetables that Taste Delicious

I’m no rockstar vegan chef, but I know my way around a kitchen. This basically means most of the time I produce food that tastes good, looks palatable and is (mostly) nutritious.

Occasionally I have disasters where things don’t go quite as planned, but that’s part of the fun. The most important thing to remember when getting jiggy with fresh fruit and veg is that it’s okay to mess up. That’s how you learn. If you never step outside your veggie comfort zone, you’ll never improve.

Of course, it’s helpful to know a few basics before diving in. Otherwise you might just inadvertently put yourself off fresh produce for life. And we definitely don’t want that.

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month

Chefs’ Tips for Cooking Perfect Vegetables (and Fruits!)

Fry Your Spices

Skinny Chef Jennifer Iserloh has some great advice on the best ways to cook vegetables. From roasting, steaming, sautéing and searing, she’s pretty much covered the basics. Her pièce de résistance, though, are her tips for flavoring.

Jennifer recommends frying your spices separately first, rather than adding them straight to your veggies. She says this method works especially well for tougher herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano. The result? Crispy, flavorful deliciousness.

Cook Those Greens

Part of cooking veggies like a top chef means breaking with tradition. Greens like kale, spinach and chard are often tossed into a salad raw. With the right dressing this can work, but I prefer well-known cookbook author Deborah Madison‘s approach.

She suggests cooking your greens on a low heat until they’re soft and tender. For seasoning she uses chopped fresh cilantro, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. However, the ace in her apron pocket is the rice she adds for extra flavor and texture.

Try this simple greens saute to get you started!

Which Vegetables Suit Which Method?

Mastering the art of roasting, steaming or stir frying is great, but it’s equally important to know which vegetables are best suited to each method of cooking. Peter van Aswegan, resident chef lecturer at Capsicum Culinary Studio, weighs in.

He says sautéing adds flavor but keeps the crunch in asparagus, mushrooms, peppers and green beans. Whereas softer veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli and baby corn, are better suited to steaming. Steaming is also the healthier method, Peter adds, as it retains the nutritional content.

Roasting works well for soft and hard veg alike, which means you’re free to toss red onion, zucchini and butternut together. Then, it’s simply a matter of waiting for those delicious smells to emanate from the oven.

Cooking with Fruit

Cooking with fruit can take your kitchen repertoire to even great heights. At first wash, cooked fruit may sound like something you’d feed old people or babies, but it can in fact be super tasty. Think about it: who doesn’t love a hot apple pie?

Similar principles apply to fruit-cooking in general. It’s about pairing the right fruit with the right cooking method; ensuring you have enough liquid, so your creation doesn’t burn or dry out; and, finally, adding flavor in the form of a compote or hearty ice cream.

Ultimately, the garden is your oyster. When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, you can make an infinite (or, close to) number of moreish dishes. Really, the only thing limiting you is your imagination.

Go forth, eat veggies, and prosper.

Photo Credits: Thinkstock

57 comments

Carole R
Carole R1 months ago

Good information . Thank you.

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Richard B
Richard B1 months ago

Thanks

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Hannah K
Hannah K1 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Veronica D
Veronica D1 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D1 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica D
Veronica D1 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D1 months ago

Okay - that just made me hungry. Gotta go...there's cauliflower in the kitchen!!! YUM!!!

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Vincent T
Vincent T2 months ago

thank you

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi D2 months ago

good ideas

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Trish K
Trish K2 months ago

I agree with cooking your spices too. When I baked I scorched my chocolate just a tad to intensify the flavor. I used to make the best feathery fudge cake ever.

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