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making vegetable haters into vegetable lovers

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i need some vegetable advice.

some of the issues are:
making them ahead of time so that they will still be appetizing later.
making them tasty enough that they will be enjoyed even by unwilling vegtable eaters.

no sweet things, no beets. also, no microwave for re-heating.

does anyone have any smart ideas for me?

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  1. Roasting brings out the NATURAL sweetness in so many veggies... YUM!! I've had so many veggie haters convert after trying them roasted! :)

    --Dommy!

    1. Conceal them in sauces. Meat sauce chock full of vegetables is delicious but the vegetables are almost undetectable. Pesto is mostly basil, and great with whole leaves of basil, handfuls of baby greens, and tomatoes tossed in. Sauces keep well, for the most part.

      I agree with Dommy! that roasting is a good way to expose people to vegetables. Same goes with hearty meaty stews that happen to have a lot of vegetables in them.

      I think the trick is to expose vegetable haters to really delicious seasonal vegetables from a local farm. The first time I tried fennel I swore I would never eat it again, but I learned later that the fennel I'd had wasn't very fresh so it was extra bitter and had lost its sweetness. It's still not my favorite, but I'll eat it.

      1. My strategy is often fritters such as pakoras (chana dal flour or chickpea flour made into a loose dough into which combos of veggies are mixed and then fried - lots of cookbooks have recipes - Bittman has a good one inhis Best Recipes in the World book.

        I like chopped eggplant and chopped onions mixed into the batter. Zucchs are also good as are broc and caulif. Served with yoghurt mixed with cilantro, green onion, mint and garlic, they're great.

        Also tortillas filled with sauteed or roasted vegs served with salsa and yogh or sour cream and/or melted cheese.

        1. Try the Barefoot Contessa recipes. Many are roasted or simply sauteed and turn out great. Her recipes for cauliflower (au gratin) and brussels sprouts (with bacon) in the Paris cookbook convinced my husband that these vegetables could actually be good. To quote him: "This is the only way that cauliflower should be prepared."

          1. Another issue for preparation is that it can be as bad to undercook vegetables as to overcook. Many people have learned to like certain vegetables (green beans, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, et cet.) very crisp and relatively lightly touched by heat; vegetable haters would not tend to be those people. Try to cook all vegetable to tenderness, which is usually the point of most balanced flavor.

            1. I find that in general, roasting or grilling ensures the best veggies. I have a George Foreman Grill that I often use to grill my veggies ahead of time - to get charring and flavour and then I'll put them in an oven proof dish and re-heat. The key to me it to properly marinade before grilling - with olive oil, lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper (and any other seasoning you like) and to only grill for a short time to get marks and not overcook, so that when they go in the oven for re-heating they are not overcooked. Also, in the oven, add whole garlic cloves and if they will turn soft and sweet and add great flavour to the other vegetables.
              Another great way to get non-veg eaters to like their veggies is to bread them - mix plain bread crumbs with a little bit of parmasean or romano cheese, dredge your zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes slices, etc. in flour and then an egg wash and then into the bread crumbs and then fry on each side in a pan until golden - not the healthiest way maybe, but tastes great and you can also make a sandwich out of the breaded veggies - with a little tomato sauce and mozzarella and hot peppers and fried mushrooms and onions on a kaiser.
              You can also hide veggies in pizza, lasagnas, stratas, etc.

              1. It depends on what your vegetable-haters like. If they're chile heads, spicy eggplant is a great way to introduce them to this versatile vegetable. I've taken this to lot of potlucks where it gets wolfed down by people who didn't know what it was.

                My favorite way to eat cauliflower is roasted after being tossed with an olive oil-salt-garlic mixture. This is good hot or cold. You can adjust the seasonings to suit your taste - hot pepper, curry powder or herbs (not all 3 at once) all go well with this dish.

                I have always disliked carrots but a sweet-sour version from Lidia Bastianich and Morroccan carrot salad changed my mind. Both add lots of flavor.

                Roasted root vegetables are always good, easy too. I plan to do a bit batch for a dinner party I have coming up in a couple of weeks. I start with potatoes, then whatever looks good in the markets - fennel, parsnips, sweet potatoes all combine well. Die-hard fennel and parsnip haters eat this with relish.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cheryl_h

                  Do you have a recipe for this spicy eggplant? I love eggplant, but it's one of the vegetables that I never know what to do with at home.

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    Sure, here it is. I posted this a while back on a thread on eggplant and what to do with it.

                    I posted a favorite recipe a while back. If you're using the large eggplants instead of the slender Asian ones, peel and cut into cubes, sprinkle with salt and let it sit for about 30 minutes. This will draw out the liquid which can be bitter.

                    This is it:

                    I make a spicy eggplant dish with Asian eggplants that is usually well liked. It's from Pacific Flavors by Carpenter and Sandison which I believe is out of print. My version of the recipe is as follows:

                    1.5 lb eggplant
                    2 ts dark soy
                    1 medium onion, sliced
                    8 cloves garlic, minced
                    2 ts finely chopped ginger

                    Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

                    Combine in a small bowl:
                    1/4 cup dry sherry
                    3 Tb oyster sauce
                    1 Tb dark soy
                    1 Tb sesame oil
                    1/2 Tb Chinese chili sauce (I use sriracha)
                    1 ts sugar.

                    Stir fry eggplant in hot oil in wok, add soy sauce, sliced onion, ginger and garlic and fry until onion is transparent. Add all other ingredients, toss to coat well. Add enough water so eggplant cubes cover about 1/2 eggplant cubes. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook until most of the liquid is reduced. Taste for seasoning.

                    This dish keeps well so I usually make it in large quantities. It's good warm or cold - makes a great picnic dish.

                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      Thanks! And I have a new wok that was given to me by a family member who didn't want it, so I might try this one out soon.

                2. I like vegetable tempura, but I don't want to eat fried stuff often.

                  I like that roasted zucchini and roasted eggplant (a little olive oil and salt), with a little tempura dipping sauce on the side tastes almost like tempura but it has much less fat.

                  Quiches(mmm spinach and/or broccoli with red pepper). Pizzas or grilled sandwiches. Stir fries (but better eaten immediately). Put it in lasagna. Blend it into spaghetti sauces? Curries. I love vegetables in curry. They are tastily smothered. Pot pies with lots of vegetables? They might like vegetables more if it was grilled on the barbecue. I know I love grilled mushrooms. Shrivelled on the outside, but juicy and intense on the inside. And I love extra roasted or grilled red pepper in my sandwich with some chicken breast, spinach and (salty) cheese. Homemade salsas taste much better than bought stuff. Start making them eat it with tortilla chips. Hummus as a dip for raw vegetable snacks served also with toasted pita triangles. Raw vegetables and hummus kept available in fridge most times.

                  1. As the weather is getting cooler, soup's on, and everyone likes minestrone which can be jam-packed with vegetables.

                    1. A great zucchini salad served room temp from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest cookbook had even my father in law coming back for 2nds. The recipe is basically as follows:

                      serving 4:
                      about 1.5 lbs small zucchini
                      3 T olive oil
                      3 cloves garlic, chopped
                      S&P
                      4 T mint, chopped
                      1 T lemon juice

                      cut long slices of zucchini abt 1/3 in thick
                      heat 1/2 oil til very hot, fry zucchini in 1 layer & sprinkle garlic on top. cook about 4-5 min until browned.
                      flip over to cook other side, sprinkling salt, pepper & mint on top. cook about 3 min til browned.
                      Repeat til all zucchini is cooked.
                      Be careful not to cook too long (don't let it get mushy).

                      When all is cooked, put on a plate & drizzle lemon juice, add salt & pepper & rest of the mint.

                      1. marinated veggies!!! They have tons of flavor, very little fat, and, if you use the right veggies can make believers out of people. They should be made in advance to let the flavors meld (although you can't let them go too long or they turn into mush).

                        My favorite marinated veggie recipe involves marinating par-cooked mushrooms, eggplant, and zuchini, with halved, raw cherry tomatoes and fully cooked artichoke. My marinade is just red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, salt and a couple teaspoons of oil. The result is very acidic, but delicious.

                        If you have true veggie haters, you might want to leave out the eggplant. Even with all of that acid, the eggplant in mine usually turns a kind of greyish color, which is not particularly appealing. The eggplant comes out tasting great though.

                        1. Obviously, grilling or roasting is the way to go, as others have mentioned.

                          Chinese food is another option. Most people will eat veggies (and even tofu) in a stirfry, dumpling or hotpot.

                          Pasta can hide many vegetables (esp.if you're using a chuky sauce).

                          As a last resort, cheese sauce hides all sorts of veggies. :-)

                          1. Sometimes it the size of the veggie. I'm still working on my son but my husband prefers when vegetables are cut thin or diced small. So I adapted.

                            1. Steamed Broccoli, califlower, zuchinni, etc. Then finish it in a skillet with a little butter. Lastly, sprinke some fresh grated parmesan cheese and ready to serve. This is so simple and sure to please!

                              1. You don't mention who these veggie-haters are, and I think it makes a difference.

                                I got my kids to eat veggies when they were young by providing child-friendly dipping sauces (in the beginning, they considered the veggies "sauce-delivery systems" but gradually cut back and still eat most of the vegs). I also added things I would be reluctant to add very often for most adults, ie, lots of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to carrots, etc. We also successfully got our kids to eat broccoli by promoting it as exactly what the dinosaurs ate.

                                But assuming your audience is not kids, I would start with what food they do like. Are there any veggies they consider less unpalatable? Find 100 variations of how to cook them. Do they like curries? Make curried veggies. Etc. Will they eat salad? Some people will eat exotic things, but don't want the ones they already know, others, just the opposite.

                                I use a couple of the bottled Asian sauces in the grocery to spice up steamed broccoli on weeknights, to keep my (now teenaged) kids eating veggies on nights when I am not feeling more creative.

                                If you are just trying to expand the palate of an adult, well then, I guess I might give them a veggie cookbook and ask them what looks potentially interesting, and be ready for a challenge.

                                I personally learned to love vegetables by eating them right off the plant, raw, from my grandfather's garden, standing there wiggling my toes in the mud with pleasure as I munched.

                                1. YOu can pretty much scallope or gratinee any veggie and any hater would eat it.

                                  I scald my cream with garlic cloves and pour it over your sliced veggy of choice, top with with pecorino and bake it for a long time.

                                  Or who's going to say no to a veggie topped with butter and bread crumbs, gratineed under a sallie?

                                  the answer is no one.

                                  - Veggietales

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Veggietales

                                    With "make-ahead" in mind, Pureed soups are another way to go. You can go wild with whatever produce the garden is cranking, and then puree with a stick blender for a one-pot minimal cleanup. Then freeze in mason jars (lasts thru the winter) for later reheating with hot water bath. A concentrated way to preserve the harvest. With a stick blender, theres no need for the dangerous and messy transfer of hot liquid to a stand alone blender or food processor.

                                    This can be eaten as is (thick), or thinned with stock, milk, yogurt etc.

                                    For the surreptitious kiddie delivery system, have them create shapes with animal shaped cutters on bread or toast.