Keens, Beans, and Greens

Keenie-Beanie, n.  a lifelong nickname for my sweet cousin Colleen which whom I had a great conversation tonight about vegetables!

mmmmm, veggies!

This weekend’s meals have been unique in unusual repetitions of leftover pizza and PB & J. Thus, little cooking-talk for the blog. However, you can thank my little cousin (okay only by 11 months) for asking me the most beautiful question this evening, “Lins, I’m trying to like vegetables. How can I make them taste interesting?”

Her second question was, “I know there are all kinds of spices and things out there, but what do I absolutely need in my cupboard??”

Oh, Keenie, you made my night! Well if you haven’t already checked out my growing list of cupboard essentials, you probably want to know my answer to this last question which ties right in with the first. Here it is: I create almost all of my flavorful and simple weeknight veggies with olive oil and coarse sea salt. That’s it!

If you’ve already read my post about roasting, you may predict where I’m going next… I told my Keen-Bean a few things:

  1. I agree with the great chefs out there that herbs are a fantastic method for flavoring vegetable dishes. However, with my basil in permanent hibernation, and my refusal to regularly spend $3 for fresh herbs at the grocery stores, I often prefer technique to bring out natural flavors.
  2. I know Keenie, like myself, probably grocery shops on a budget. And while I do enjoy tossing toasted pine nuts on my veggies, I’d rather emphasize the natural qualities of the ingredient, rather than adding ingredients to taste.
  3. Olive oil and a bit of sea salt can help maintain the nutritional integrity of vegetables (vs. seasoning packets or calorie & sodium-packed dressings) with methods such as roasting or sautéing.

On the right, for instance, are roasted tomatoes…the richest veggie sidedish you can imagine! Divine with homemade mac and cheese.

And guess what went into this? Olive oil and coarse salt sprinkled over sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet and baked until soft and shriveled. I know it’s not time for tomatoes yet, but you can do the same with potatoes, onions, fresh green beans, broccoli, carrots, etc. etc. etc.

Though this post isn’t about meat, olive oil and coarse salt are a great cooking foundation for roasted shrimp or chicken. Just 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper tossed with shrimp, roasted for 6 minutes at 400 degrees produces painless, perfect shrimp. Ask my dad, who’s now a believer 🙂

unpeeled shrimp (though peeled would work even better) with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper

just 6 minutes later and ready to enjoy! (well, by the seafood lovers that is...)

even this skillet-roasted chicken began with olive oil and salt, and ended with a simple pan-sauce of lemon and fresh thyme

Minimizing ingredients can help you enjoy (and benefit from) the natural, nutritional content of your food.  Remember, just keep it simple, fresh, and healthy.


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Filed under lickety-quick, techniques, the basics

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