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Mar 14, 2013 04:34 AM

Lovely recipe...but where's the veg?

Has anyone else noticed that most recipes out there are really short on vegetable content? I don't just mean for things like lemon chicken or grilled fish, but I find that even stew recipes contain mostly meat, a lot of stock/wine/etc, perhaps one onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and the requisite extra seasonings.

When I'm improvising something in my kitchen, I always ramp up the veg content, not to be healthy but simply because I feel that it needs it! I will always use at least two, if not three, large onions because they add such a tangy savoury background to the dish; I almost always add diced carrot and celery to give some extra dimension and body to the stew base; sliced bell peppers are often a good addition as they seem to suit most cuisines; a tablespoon of tomato paste is always replaced by a can of tomatoes; a good handful of frozen peas, canned beans or something often adds much-needed colour and variety to the dish. I usually end up with a rounded dish and never think, "I wish I'd followed the recipe and just used meat and an onion." Plus the added vegetables make the dish go further and taste...well, juicier...!

So why do people think so many recipes skimp on the veggy goodness?

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  1. First - I think that particularly in the US, that meat/protein are given first "billing" in most dishes. Thus, veggies are more often resorted to the supporting player category if they're included at all.

    But I think beyond that is that most recipes and dishes aren't necessarily designed to be apart of one-pot meals. Mujaddara - Middle Eastern dish of primarily rice, lentils and onions - is an example that leaps to mind. While mujaddara can stand as a meal on its own with a healthy topping of labne/yogurt/etc - it's more often part of a meal that will have other vegetable sides.

    I do agree that when I'm making a "one-dish" meal, I will look to add extra veggies. But more often I enjoy having veggies separate.

    1. I'll add vegetables to the dish directly if I think it will make it better but I normally serve a side of vegetables, too. As cresyd said, one dish isn't necessarily meant to be the whole meal. I do find it more of a problem in a restaurant where vegetables are treated like a condiment, in which case, I order a side of vegetables.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        That I really do agree with - or where potatoes count as a vegetable.

        1. re: chowser

          This is basically what I do. Like, most pasta dishes don't include vegetables but if I'm not wanting to make a salad or have vegetables on the side, I'll throw in broccoli or green beans or whatever really, into the pasta...helps make it look like the serving is bigger too :) Otherwise, I almost always have some kind of veggie on the side.

          1. re: chowser

            I was suprised to notice that on Hell's Kitchen, and so I'm assuming many restaurant kitchens, too, the vegetable station is called "garnish." It seems to make them not important.

          2. Interesting, I just made a caldron of chicken soup using 5lbs of carrots and a whole bunch of celery.

            2 Replies
            1. re: treb

              Sounds awesome! Soup is always a brilliant veg vehicle!

              1. re: treb

                good grief! how big is that cauldron?

              2. I often make a stew with lots of vegetables, but I consider that a totally different recipe than braised beef with onion, garlic and red wine. Same for something like pasta with meatballs. If I do them with a simple tomato sauce it is one dish, with pepper, onions and eggplant it's a completely different one. Once you add all the ingredients you've listed it's not what the recipe writer intended though it can still be a great dish.

                1. Yeah...I haven't noticed any meat and onion only stews, especially on CH. I think, more and more, vegetables are playing starring roles on American tables. Casseroles and one pot meals may have traditionally been light on veggies but I don't think that's the case anymore. We are big protein eaters but, often as not, soups are good homemade stocks filled with numerous vegetables. Produce in Ca is a great joy year round. And tomato paste serves a totally different function than tomatoes in a dish.