Category Archives: Vegetables

Mixed Vegetable Grill

Onions and summer squashes are superb when grilled, but don’t be afraid to try any vegetable on the grill. Toni also likes to throw in carrots, fresh fennel, and halved baby potatoes. You’re only limited by your own imagination.

Serves 4-6

Basic Balsamico Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup):
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. good quality Balsamic vinegar
2. T. wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Eggplant, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2″ to 3/4″ “steaks”
Portobello mushroom caps
Zucchini and summer squash, sliced lengthwise or
whole (if small)
Sweet onion( Spanish or Vidalia), sliced 1/4″ crosswise or into moon-shaped wedges
Bell peppers, red, orange & yellow have the most flavor

Or any other combination of vegetables you like!

To prepare:
Certain vegetables lend themselves to easy, quick grilling.

Our list of veggies need only be trimmed of stem ends and sliced for grilling. The key is to slice them thinly enough so that they cook evenly and quickly while still having a tad of firmness.

They may be brushed simply with oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper before and during grilling, or you can use our basic balsamic marinade/baste or your own favorite prepared vinaigrette-style dressing.

Note: You can serve this mixed grill with anything from bruschetta to rice to pasta and the leftovers make fabulous sandwiches on thick, crusty slices of French or Italian bread or rolled up on pita bread.

Little arms of love

broccoliBroccoli’s name comes from the Italian piccoli bracci meaning “little arms” and just a single serving of this amazing vegetable provides 30 mg of vitamin C, plentiful fiber, and a slew of other anti-oxidant, cancer-fighting nutrients. And it’s not just good for you, it’s good!

Soup, salad, side, or main dish, broccoli is a cool weather crop and best from October through April in the Northern Hemisphere. When buying this ubiquitous vegetable, look for bright green color and tightly packed buds. Since raw broccoli requires good air circulation to stay fresh, store in a perforated plastic bag for up to 3 days – or just eat it right away.

Give this nutrient-rich vegetable some love. And while you’re at it, check out the baby hamster enjoying a first taste of broccoli.

Asparagus Grilled with Lime

This recipe is both easy and elegant and if you’ve never tried grilling these tasty spears, now’s the time! Gorgeous stalks of fresh asparagus are blanched, then grilled and dressed with lime juice. Heavenly!

Serves 4

Good-sized bunch of fresh asparagus stalks, preferably the thicker type suitable for grilling
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lime juice
Extra virgin olive oil

To prepare:
Blanch asparagus stalks by placing in salted, boiling water for a minute or two, until bright green. Remove quickly and rinse in cold water to stop cooking.

Lightly brush with olive oil and carefully place on hot grill so that the spears don’t fall through the holes. If you prefer, you can use a grill basket especially designed to hold smaller vegetables.

Using long-handled tongs, roll the asparagus around until all sides are just beginning to turn golden and spears are slightly tender. This should take only a few minutes.

When done, arrange stalks on serving platter, sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and give them a good squeeze of fresh lime.

Note: Eat seasonally and eat well. Asparagus is the true culinary harbinger of spring and when it’s plentiful, I buy tons of it. Prepared with simplicity, asparagus is the ultimate vegetable. Look for fresh, tender asparagus with tight tips. Instead of cutting, snap off lower end of each spear where the woodier part meets the tender stalk.

Fennel with Tomatoes, Onion, and Raisins

Fennel with Tomatoes, Onion, and Raisins

One of Italy’s favorite root vegetables, finocchio (fee-no-keeo, a.k.a. fennel) has a wonderfully crisp texture and a flavor that borders on sweet with a trace of licorice.

This tender white bulb can be enjoyed raw for its crisp, juicy texture or cooked in a variety of ways. The most prized fennel originates from the region of Sicily. Fennel is high in vitamin A and is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and calcium.

6 fennel bulbs, washed
6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
1 t. roasted cumin seeds, crushed slightly in mortar & pestle
2 T. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Trim off tops of fennel bulbs, then slice off tough root end. Rinse, then quarter the bulbs and peel off any tough outer leaves. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, boil water. Drop tomatoes into boiling water one by one. After a few seconds skins will pucker and begin to loosen. Remove immediately from water and slide skins off. Chop peeled tomatoes roughly and set aside.

Dry roast cumin seeds over medium-high heat just until aroma is released. Remove and crush slightly in mortar & pestle. Set aside.


Heat oil in deep pan and add chopped onion, then sauté until the onions begin to soften. Add quartered fennel bulbs and stir and sauté for 5 or so minutes, then add remaining ingredients and stir to combine all ingredients. Cover the pan and simmer the fennel-tomato mixture for 25-30 minutes or until fennel bulbs are easily pierced with a knife.

Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, dress with fruity Sicilian olive oil and serve.

Cathi’s Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Cathi Dicocco’s Oven-Dried Tomatoes

These tomato gems are sweet, delicious, and a snap to make. Oven drying enhances the sweetness while preserving tomatoes at a time when they’re abundantly in season and affordable. You can also do this with cherry tomatoes and you don’t even need to scoop out the innards – Sungolds work well and are amazingly sweet and wonderful in a simple sauce over pasta. If using cherry tomatoes, make your cut across the “equator.”

Roma tomatoes (about three pounds)
Kosher salt
Sugar (optional)

To Prepare:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut off the stem end and then cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Gently scoop out the juicy insides. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, cut side up. Sprinkle with a little coarse kosher salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Some people like to add a little sugar to increase the sweetness of the tomato, but this isn’t usually necessary.

Set the pan in the oven and bake for two to three hours. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process or the tomatoes will burn. Slow cooking dehydrates the tomatoes, which is what you want to accomplish.

For preserving the tomatoes you’ll want them dry, leathery, and flexible. Since tomatoes vary in size, some halves may remain a little moist, so simply return those to the oven to dry a little more, or you can use them immediately. To preserve the tomatoes in oil they need to be consistently dry. Water will cause the tomatoes to become rancid over a long period of time.

Cover the dried tomatoes with olive oil in a lidded jar to preserve or seal for longer storage.

Peas for Kids

Peas for Kids

Vegetables are a tough sell for children, yet sugar and sweetened foods seem to go over without a hitch. Here is a recipe that takes sweet peas and makes them sweeter in a natural way that seems to appeal to most children. Pecans add chewy texture, nutrition, and yes, enough sophistication to make this a great adult side dish as well. Pine nuts or walnuts can be substituted for pecans, although pecans and honey make a great team.

1 lb. frozen organic petit peas
1 1/2 T. vegan margarine
1 1/2 T. organic honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
1/4 c. chopped pecans

To prepare:
Bring three cups of water to a boil. Drop in the peas and cook for 3-5 minutes or just until heated through. Drain well.

Melt the margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar and the pecans. Stir and allow the nuts to cook for a minute or two. Add in the peas, stir to combine and serve.

If the peas go over well, try the same recipe with cooked frozen green beans, lima beans, or carrots. The pecan topping is also wonderful over lightly steamed or roasted sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are another terrific tasting and very healthy vegetable, and children usually like them. Just be sure not to overcook them as texture plays an important role in acceptability. These vegetable sides are great served with a veggie burger, over rice, or with my Tofu Bites.

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a wonderful root vegetable, sweet and flavorful, and loaded with dietary fiber (an important element in controlling cholesterol and some types of cancer). Sweet potatoes contain naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. They have almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when prepared and eaten with the skin on, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. To top that off, an average-sized sweet potato contains only about 130-160 calories.

Among root vegetables, sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating, because it digests slowly. This gradual rise in blood sugar makes you feel satisfied longer, which is also an advantage for maintaining weight or to shed excess pounds. With what seems like the entire population fearing “carbs,” sweet potatoes goes on the “good for you” list.

Try them mashed, baked, fried, in desserts, or prepared as I do in the recipe that follows. I picked up this simple recipe on a recent trip to the Caribbean where sweet potatoes overfill the bins in local groceries.

5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled or not, and cubed
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3 T. freshly grated ginger
2-3 T. olive oil
1 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground chipolte pepper powder (optional)
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

To prepare:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cubed sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, maple syrup or agave nectar, ginger, oil, cardamom, and chipotle, if using. Transfer to a large terra cotta baking dish or a large, deep cast iron frying pan. Cast iron pans make wonderful baking dishes.

Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn the mixture in the pan to get the pieces from the bottom of the pan to the top. Continue baking for an additional 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and caramelized.

Top with the chopped peanuts, if you like, or serve as is over rice, black beans, tucked into my chickpea crepes or with my spicy Jamacan Jerk Tempeh or Tofu. I have used these leftover in roll up sandwiches with avocado, scallions, lettuce, and tomato. These make substitute for homefries with breakfast as well.

Wine-Braised Fennel

Wine-Braised Fennel

It’s a shame that fennel is often overlooked as a cooked side dish because it really is delicious. Usually served in its crunchy raw state in salads, fennel is also an easy, sweet, cooked vegetable and it’s quite popular that way in Europe. Here is a recipe that can be made with or without the Parmesan cheese (vegan or otherwise) and which offers options for other vegetable additions such as sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, or black olives.

3-4 fennel bulbs, cleaned and trimmed
3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. good quality white wine
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. to 1/4 c. grated vegan or dairy parmesan cheese

To prepare:
Prepare the fennel by cutting off the stems and trimming the tough bottom. Remove also the thick outer layer which is sometimes quite woody. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices.

Heat a heavy sauté pan, large enough to hold the fennel slices in a single layer. A little overlap is fine, but they shouldn’t be sitting on top of each other. Heat the oil just until it’s heated through, but not smoking. Slide the fennel slices into the pan, along with a little salt and pepper, and the wine. Cover and allow the vegetables to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the fennel is fairly tender. The fennel should begin caramelizing a bit and turning a light golden brown. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.

Turn the fennel slices, put the cover back on, and continue cooking until the other side colors – this should take about 5 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with cheese, if you’d like, and serve immediately.

This is a terrific side dish served alongside other dishes or by itself over nutty brown rice. I have also served it on rye toast or tuscan bread prepared as bruschetta.

Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Watch this recipe being made.

Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Roasting is one of my favorite methods of preparing vegetables. It’s so easy and roasting brings out the very best flavor in most vegetables. This recipe boasts few ingredients and is packed with flavor and flexibility. I will serve this as a vegetable side dish or light entrée. The roasted garlic is superb and the pan ‘drippings’ are caramelized to perfection, just waiting to be mopped up with warm bread.

Try this as a filling for Chickpea Crepes using the savory alternative version.

Watch this recipe being made online .

1 head cauliflower, broken or cut into florets
1 butternut squash, peeled, innards removed, cut into 2″ pieces
6-10 whole garlic cloves, with peel on (remove any loose papery skin)
1-2 shallots, quartered
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 to 1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 t. Herbes de Provence (optional)
¼ c. “Parmesan” style vegan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the garlic and with the heel of a knife, gently break the skin a little but leaving the clove in the skin. Place the cauliflower, squash, garlic, pine nuts, and shallots into a roomy work bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, reserving some to add as they roast. Season with about half a teaspoon of kosher salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and the dried herbs, if using. Toss everything well to combine. Put all the vegetables in a metal or glass roasting pan or terra cotta baking dish. I like to pile the vegetables somewhat so they aren’t completely in a single layer – this helps to retain the vegetables’ moisture content as they roast. Tuck the rosemary sprigs all around but don’t break off the leaves. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes.

After about 20 minutes, the top should be browning a bit. Turn the vegetables in the pan and continue roasting for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the squash pieces are fork tender. If the vegetables seem dry, drizzle with additional oil. When the vegetables are cooked, you’ll have a nice layer of caramelization on the bottom of the dish. Remove the pan from the oven and cover lightly with foil. Allow the cauliflower and squash to rest and “sweat” out their juices for five minutes or so, then season everything to taste, and serve.

This is wonderful as a side dish, filling, or main course with any grain recipe. The garlic is a real treat, so sweet, and each clove just pops out of the skin. Be sure to eat the squash with some of these delicious garlic treasures. The rosemary should be soft and fragrant. Any leaves remaining on the twig will easily slide off and can be mixed with the juices.

Optional additions include dried cranberries, black olives, or walnuts.

Rediscover Lentils

Rediscover Lentils

Lentils are one of the most ancient of cultivated crops, and they’re widely consumed throughout Europe, India, and Africa. They are wonderfully all-purpose, low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and unlike other legumes, they cook quickly and require no soaking. They are a terrific meat substitute for vegetarians in a variety of forms – as in burgers and loaves. Lentils have a mild, earthy flavor, and stand up well against more assertive flavorings.

Puy lentils or French lentils are some of the finest available. While they take a bit longer to cook than brown lentils, they’re worth the extra time because they hold their shape well after cooking. Puy lentils are smaller than brown lentils and they’re a beautiful blue green color. They will darken after cooking and I wouldn’t recommend they be used in a burger or loaf recipe as they cost more than brown lentils and they’re very refined. At one time they were only grown in the volcanic soil of Puy, France, but they are now also grown in Italy and North America, which makes them more affordable.

All lentils are best when simmered gently and shouldn’t be used just for soups. Use them as you would other beans – they make great tacos, for example. All lentils are a wonderful, protein-rich addition to salads or are a delicious side dish to any meal.

Dal (or split lentils) are often sold in Indian markets. They cook down quickly and are best puréed or added to soups.

Before cooking, simply rinse lentils and pick out any stones. Salting the water during cooking will slow the process, so season them just before serving. A delicious lentil dish can be ready in as little as half an hour. An essential pantry item, lentils of all types will last up to a year stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Recently during an informal get together, I made a simple stew with puy lentils, garlic and onions which I served over wilted baby spinach and cornbread with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped cilantro a squeeze of fresh lemon, and fresh cracked pepper. It was the easiest meal you can imagine, and turned out to be a great success with my supper guests. Next time you think of passing by lentils at the store, take the leap and grab a bag – you won’t be sorry.