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Best 'sleeper' vegies I'm missing out on?

I am in a vegie rut.
I have zero experience using any of the more 'exotic/ethnic' veg I always never buy b/c I don't know what they taste like nor their best uses.
I'm pretty much a 'meat and potatoes' cook when it comes to the veg I use every day. Tomato/onions/carrots etc. 'Western veg'.
I'd like to try some of these different veg. Can you all point me in some new veg usage directions? Can you put up a photo and tell me in what dish it is most used?
Forget recommending 'durian' LOL
Why don't grocery stores put 'how to use' signs/photos with the more 'esoteric' fruits/veg? Bet they'd sell more. Or have a small display where we can go find a photo and description on a touch screen in the store.
Thanks.

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  1. Around the holidays a few very patient CH's enlightened this produce happy gal with a dish I had never had before: the rutabaga, roasted. So delicious I've made it a number of times since.

    Simple preparation, the oven does most of the work:
    http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/ba...

    I hope you'll try it!

    14 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Okra with tomatoes is one of our favorites. Dice and Sautee an onion, add a bag of frozen okra and a can of diced tomatoes. Simmer for
      20 minutes. Season and serve.

      1. re: tzurriz

        That sounds really good, thanks for the inspiration!

        1. re: tzurriz

          Many people have texture issues with okra. I don't know if your recipe reduces the associated slime, but my hands down favorite way to prepare okra is to dip the trimmed pods in a flour-water batter and deep fry them. Almost as good is to quarter the trimmed pods vertically and fry quickly in a little olive oil. Other seasonings can be added--garlic, mustard seeds, whatever.

          1. re: sr44

            the acid in the tomato dissolves the slime.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Thanks! I'll try it. Good to know about the acid. It suggests possible dipping sauces.

              And by the way, never slice okra in the food processor.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Is that what happens?

                I started cooking with tomato in my okra a couple of years ago and noticed that the okra was no longer slimy. I wasn't sure what was doing it, but the okra dishes seemed just a thousand times better when they had tomato in them. :)

                1. re: LMAshton

                  it won't eliminate it completely, but it does cut down on it.

                  In gumbo, you WANT the slime -- gumbo is a variation on the Creole name for the vegetable: gomba.

                  Okra slime is what makes gumbo thick and unctuous.

          2. re: HillJ

            WE had never eaten rutabaga until we had it in England at a Carvery that put vegetables out for self-service along with the roast beef. It quickly became one of our favorite vegetables. It is so popular in England (called "Swede") that it is sold in plastic bags, frozen and peeled and cut into cubes. I like it boiled and mashed with butter.

            1. re: Querencia

              I need to expand my rutabaga horizons! I'm so gone on the roasted I really haven't done much else with them.

              1. re: HillJ

                Amazing steamed, pureed with butter, cream, and salt, and then topped with crisply fried shallot strings.

              2. re: HillJ

                Every Thanksgiving my uncle makes enough mashed rutabaga to feed an entire village. He boils the rutabagas, then adds caramelized onions and butter. Divine.

                1. re: rachael_emily

                  Another variation that sounds equally tasty, thanks!

              3. There are many sites related to using CSA vegetables if you google.
                I like all root veggies roasted, any kind of turnip, beets, rutabaga.

                All greens are good sautéed with garlic

                1. How do you feel about eggplant? That is one of my favorite vegetables, so versatile. Especially in the summer when you can get fresh and local.

                  I like it in thai or Chinese dishes. Or you can go Mediterranean. Here are a couple of examples:

                  http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaisnac...

                  http://thehungrygoddess.com/2012/03/l...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tcamp

                    yep, lovelovelove eggplant and guess what? you don't HAVE to fry it in oil to cook it...just lightly coat with some olive oil and BAKE it (I always add garlic and NEVER remove the skin...so much fiber and nutrients in that purple skin!)...OR you could just roast entire eggplant in the oven I've seen that done too!

                    1. re: Val

                      I slice it (usually top-to-bottom), brush the slices with olive oil, and grill. Yum.

                  2. Not sure if you would consider Bok choy as a "new to me" veg, but it's great quickly sauteed in a stir-fry. Also, if you get baby bok choy, cut in half and grilled is wonderful!

                    Try a few sorrel leaves mixed into your salad. It has a nice lemony-peppery "zing".

                    Leeks are great sauteed, in a soup, such as potato-leek soup.

                    http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2008/04/07/...

                    1. Seriously? You want your grocery store to hand hold you through vegetable prep, selection and uses? That's kinda why those weird things like cookbooks, innumerable cooking magazines and web sites with veggie recipes exist. There are literally tens of thousands of places on the internet, in bookstores and in libraries that offer in depth information about everything you asked for. I'd rather pay a competitive price for my fresh produce than pay for the added cost of providing "touch screen" iPads /notebooks and glossy photos with cooking advice. Some upscale places do offer such things plus cooking classes and menu ideas. You can go to those places or do your homework at home.
                      I don't want Jewel or a super Walmarts or Costcos advice on how to cook my vegetables. That I can do on my own. I just want them to sell me good quality vegetables at a reasonable price. That's not to say it is wrong for a store to offer such options, places like Whole Foods and many other places do, but to expect it...?
                      Your best bet is to avail yourself of the resources available to any net savvy individual or take a trip to your library if the cost of buying cooking magazines and books is too dear.
                      If you want to branch out from "tomatoes, onions, carrots" (I don't know what you mean by "etc.") than look into the possibility of researching a fresh vegetable before you go to the store.
                      What you consider "exotic" or "ethnic" is just confusing. Are eggplants, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, turnips, potatoes, spinach, kale, celery root, radicchio, chard, asparagus, fennel considered exotic? Not where I live. Sun chokes, parsnips, zucchini blossoms, some wild mushrooms, cardoons and rutabagas may require some pre-shopping thought but they, "exotic" or otherwise, are basically (if not served raw) cooked by roasting, braising, sautéing, frying or deep frying, coated in batter, grilling, steaming or boiling. Served with a sauce or not. Roasted with olive oil or some other fat and seasoned and maybe spritzed with lemon or other citrus or vinegar.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: KateBChi

                        I agree about preferring competitive prices but I get what puffin is saying. Sometimes at the Asian megamart, I find myself standing in front of some item I've never used before (whole turmeric, most recently) and using my iphone to google what to do with it. Which creates a traffic jam. I guess the last century solution was tear-off recipe cards in front of the more esoteric vegetables.

                        1. re: tcamp

                          I do this all the time, just step to the side.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            Or visually take in what you see at the market then go home and research the veggie. If it's something you might want to explore, go back and buy it. No blocking the isles. But what do you consider exotic? Everyone has their own interpretation.

                            That said, I've been growing a garden for the last five years. Every year, I add one or two new veggies either unfamiliar to me or hard for me to obtain locally. Broccoli Rabe, romanesco, kohlrabi, bok choy, Chinese long beans, Brussels sprouts, spinach, acorn & butternut squashes are things I didn't grow up with but were interested in.

                            I also have planted things I knew what do with like okra, assorted lettuces like romaine, buttercrunch, and mizuna (grew up on iceberg), assorted winter greens, summer squashes, assorted hot & sweet peppers, assorted tomatoes, cukes and melons, etc. But, through it all, I just looked into cook books and online at different cultures and how they prepare these same veggies (it helps to be culinarily openminded.)

                            Also keep in mind that certain plants can be eaten pretty much in it's entirety. For example, the leaves from broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi can be eaten as well as the stalk or bulb. Also, similar veggies like Chinese long beans and green beans can be prepared the same way. Many people only prepare vegetables a couple of ways but think outside the box: steamed, fried, baked, roasted, grilled, smoked or seasoned one of 100 ways.

                            The lowly tomato can be prepared all of those ways, as can potatoes, carrots, celery, corn and most "Western vegetables". Research is the best way to learn something.

                          2. re: tcamp

                            Whereas I'll just buy the random vegetable/fruit and figure out what to do with it at home later. Yes, I do this fairly frequently.

                            1. re: LMAshton

                              I do this with veggies and all out her sorts of things in the store. It's a good way to learn in the kitchen.

                              1. re: LMAshton

                                I've often been tempted to do that, but then I'm not sure how much to buy and what other things I might need for a recipe I might find. So then I decide to hold off buying it until the following week, by which time I usually have forgotten or they don't have it anymore. I'll have to try living on the edge and just buying it when I see it like you do.

                                1. re: AmyH

                                  What makes it easier for me is that I live in Asia and tend to have a fair number of Asian-type ingredients in my cupboards already (suitable for cooking Sri Lankan, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese...), and I cook predominantly Asian sorts of foods. And if I'm really stuck, the husband (Sri Lankan) usually has suggestions, some of which actually end up being really good despite the fact that he never cooks.

                                2. re: LMAshton

                                  I use that method more often than the "on the spot research method" too. Fun!

                              2. re: KateBChi

                                Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison, goes through a wide range of vegetables alphabetically, including how to select the best specimens, and some recipes for each one. It's just one of many encyclopedic cookbooks covering both conventional and "exotic" produce.

                                I never tried kohlrabi until recently, and like it a lot. Tastes like an apple-y broccoli stalk.

                                Go to ethnic restaurants that offer buffets, and when you taste something you like but can't identify, ask them what it is and how it is prepared.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  That's one of my most used cookbooks, and I'm not even vegetarian.

                                  1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                    Me either. I love the stir-fried roasted eggplant so much that I know it is page 268! I take liberties depending on what Asian condiments I have on hand but it's always triffic.

                                  2. re: greygarious

                                    Deborah Madison also has a new-ish cookbook out called Vegetable Literacy. She covers basically everything. I also love the Elizabeth Schneider cookbooks on unusual fruits and vegetables. I do love vegetarian cooking for everyone. It's very comprehensive with lots of interesting recipes.

                                    1. re: Madrid

                                      I love Elizabeth Schneider! I only have her vegetable book. It is one of my most valuable references. I always learn something new and her "chef" suggestions have lead to some pretty amazing dishes!

                                      Edit: Her Veg book was one of the most used references in the produce dept. of an organic market I worked at. Within months of leaving that job I realized that I*had*to*have my own copy (which was rather pricey). Have never regretted that purchase!

                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        I think you'd like her first book as well, Unusual fruits and vegetables.

                                        1. re: Madrid

                                          I saw on an old post that you have BA's from the 80's. My mom just threw away a recipe by accident and needs it for tomorrow. It's a crab and avocado salad from May of 1980. It would be great if you could help. Thank you :)

                                  3. re: KateBChi

                                    Many of the grocery stores around here have provided this kind of information, and not just the frou-frou ones. Not the super-cheap places, but a lot of the mid-level chains do or did. Often it was a binder of laminated pages in one spot in the produce section, sometimes just bits of information included on the price sign, sometimes tear-away recipes you could take home.

                                    I don't know if they still do in the internet era, but it was definitely a thing that was done.

                                    1. re: Jacquilynne

                                      I totally forgot about the laminated binder -- I'll have to look to see if it still exists in my local store.

                                      I used that binder a lot.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I think there is one at my Kroger. I've never looked through it, but I will next time I'm in to see if that's what it is.

                                    2. re: KateBChi

                                      Back in the dark ages before the internet there was a show on PBS called the Victory Garden that always ended with a recipe using the produce featured on the show. I splurged and bought a paperback copy of the Victory Garden Cookbook and it is still on my cookbook shelf with a scotch tape binding. It lists vegetables alphabetically with growing, marketing and cooking tips. There are also a few recipes featuring the vegetables in the chapter. Priceless.

                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                        I loved that show! I always just wanted to hug Miriam -- she just looks like that sort of person.