Knowing how to cook with and use vegetables is a fundamental life skill, I believe. Yet, the most common question farmers hear at farmers markets is “What can I do with this?” or some version of the same, expressing frustration, tinged with fear. We all acknowledge that they’re beautiful, virtuous and healthy but, sadly, many people feel helpless when it comes to vegetables.
The simple truth is that, as a culture, we’ve lost some of our most basic skills—including cooking—but hope is not lost. I believe that we all have something to teach. I’m not a talented cook, but I’m comfortable in the kitchen, and I aim to share that information in an encouraging way.
And, I love vegetables. The variety, personalities and sheer beauty of vegetables excite me and give me joy. The closer to home those veggies are grown, the more excited I get.
I’ve been writing a “Fresh Today” column for the local paper, the Concord Monitor, focusing on just one vegetable at a time. My goal is to encourage people to seek out locally grown vegetables and to just experiment with them.
I’d like to demystify vegetables, one by one, by providing the most basic information: how to choose them, their claims to fame (historically and nutritionally), how to store them and a few basic cooking techniques. Not recipes. There are plenty of talented food writers doing that; I just want people to feel empowered to “just do it.”
In a way, I think the proliferation of cooking shows on television, along with the endless array of cooking websites, food blogs and beautiful cookbooks, have contributed to a fear of cooking at the same time that they’ve inspired the masses—like a meal’s got to be amazing or it’s just not good enough. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Food Network itself has created more foodies of the eating out variety than the cooking in variety. Just a hunch.
It’s just ridiculous to think that every kitchen creation has to be a masterpiece. If you’re starting with fresh, high-quality local ingredients, the flavors and textures will tell the story with a bare minimum of assistance from the cook. Add a few herbs and spices that you love, along with a hefty sprinkle of adventure, and cooking becomes what it should be. Fun and satisfying—not a competition.
I’d like to remove the obstacles between fresh, local vegetables and the dinner plate. I’d like to ignite passion for lesser-known heirloom varieties and the fun of trying new things in the kitchen. I’d like to inspire people to take a second look at even a vegetable they’ve known for a long time, by capturing their imagination with something unusual .
No vegetable is too common or too unusual to deserve attention. Next up for Fresh Today is lettuce, and I need your help.
Is lettuce just for salads? How do you choose lettuce, if you’re buying it? Have you ever used it in hot dishes? When you have a glut of lettuce in the garden or your CSA share, how do you keep it interesting?
Let us share our lettuce thoughts…