Archive for Get To Know Your Vegetables

Get to Know Your Spices


[a picture of asafoetida]

First of all, why bother buying herbs or spices?
I used to look at spices, particularly fresh herbs as an unnecessary expense. Now I realize by just picking up a jar of spices or a bundle of herbs when I go to the store, be it basil or parsley, I can spice up an otherwise boring dish or turn a regular ol’ vegetable into a meal unto itself.

Fresh or Jarred?
There is a definite difference here both in taste and longevity. The taste of fresh herbs is undoubtedly more distinct and therefor usually better. However, sometimes you don’t want the actual plant interfering with the texture of whatever you’re making and you want a spice. Spices in jars don’t ever go bad, but they do lose their punch after about a year (this is only for herb spices, spices that are ground like pepper last a couple years more). Whereas fresh herbs go bad within days or weeks depending on how moist you keep them (when they’ve dried out or wilted, it’s time to chuck ’em). You can keep your fresh herbs stay fresh by putting the ends in a cup filled with water, then placing a plastic bag over the top and putting them in the fridge. If you find yourself preferring fresh herbs, but hating the hassle of going back to the store to buy new ones, try keeping a couple plants on your window sill or growing your own herb garden.

The Basics
Spices that are typically useful in the vegetarian kitchen include basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary (okay okay and salt and pepper). You can throw these bad boys just about on any vegetable, and even some fruits like tomatoes and cucumbers (still both technically fruits due to the whole seed thing) without having to worry much about ruining your meal. These also go well on pasta and with couscous, beans, or bulgar!

Mysterious Spices
That said, there are a lot of spices I haven’t tried, but am eager to. But first, I’d probably want to know what they taste like and how to use them! Not to worry, apparently there’s a whole database on the subject online at the Encyclopedia of Spices. Curious to know what sumac is? How about cardamom? Or asafoetida? Check them out below: Encyclopedia of Spices

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Get To Know Your Vegetables: Eggplant


[picture of eggplant types]

What is aubergine? What is brinjal?
Eggplant is also known as aubergine or brinjal. Technically, it is not a vegetable but a fruit as it has seeds.

What are the different types of eggplant?
Chinese Eggplant (long, thin and dark purple), Indian Eggplant (round and reddish-purple), Japanese Eggplant (long, thin, and either purple, pink, white, lavender or green), Pingtung Long Eggplant (very slender and bright purple, often curved), Thai Eggplant (green w/ yellow or white stripes, golf-ball sized), White Eggplant (resembles Chinese Eggplant but is white in color), Sicilian Eggplant (egg-shaped, Streaked white and purple), Italian Eggplant (resembles a smaller version of classic eggplant, only a few inches long, dark purple in color). Information from: http://www.iloveeggplant.com/varieties and http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/exotic-vegetable-glossary6.asp

What does eggplant taste like?
Without cooking eggplant is slightly bitter, but by salting and cooking much of the bitterness is removed. Eggplant has a light pulpy flavor and texture much like squash. The seeds are soft and not noticeable during consumption. Cooking gives the eggplant a rich, complex flavor although eggplant easily absorbs the taste of whatever it is cooked with (olive oil, herbs, tomato, etc.)

What recipes is eggplant used in?
Eggplant is used in many middle eastern and eastern dishes. Below are some great recipes using eggplant:
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe from Easy Greens
BBQ Eggplant Recipe from Easy Greens
Eggplant Curry Recipe
Roasted Eggplant Soup

How do I cook eggplant?
Eggplant can be peeled, cubed, and cooked, breaded and fried, baked, pan fried, and grilled.
To cook eggplant, you will generally want to remove the moisture from the fruit by salting it. This can be done by slicing the eggplant into rings (width-wise) and sprinkling each piece with salt. Place the pieces in a colander over a bowl. The salt will “sweat” the moisture out of the eggplant in approx. an hour. Wash off the salt from the slices before cooking.

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Get To Know Your Vegetables: Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard


[picture of swiss chard]

What is Mangold? What is Spinach beet?
Swiss Chard is also known as: Red Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, Crab Beet, Seakale Beet and Mangold

What does swiss chard look like?
Swiss chard comes in a bundle of long stems and leaves. Each stem is either white or red stem (sometimes yellow) with a dark green, shiny, large, singular leaf on top. The veins of the same color as the stem continue throughout the leaf.

How does Swiss Chard Taste? Slightly salty to bitter

What recipes is swiss chard in? How can I cook swiss chard?
Here are some great recipes using swiss chard:
Simple Swiss Chard
Vegetarian Swiss Chard Bake
Vegetarian Swiss Chard Pie

How do I cook swiss chard on its own?
Swiss chard can be steamed or pan fried with oil (and garlic). You can eat just the leaf part or cook the stems as well (which are tougher). Because of its strong taste, it is not recommended to eat swiss chard raw, although you can use it as a substitute for spinach in salads, wraps, and other recipes.

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