It was so delicious I almost wished I had waited to use it after refilling the crisper. It tasted great with just chicken and jalapenos, but I couldn’t help but think how good the cauliflower would have been. That vindaloo sauce and its sister product curry are on my list for this week’s shopping trip.
If you’re messing with your eating plan this time of year, whether out of a desire to lose weight or peer pressure, chances are someone around your table has made a New Year’s resolution to eat more vegetables. , or should have. If that’s the case, look no further than your favorite takeout flavor profiles for new ways to make vegetables more appealing to newcomers.
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Shortly after my late first husband and I got married, I discovered that while he loved cuisines from all over the world, my new spouse only ate two vegetables: whole corn and green peas. My veggie-loving mom had treated corn and peas as starches, so if there was one on the dinner plate, she always served a green vegetable on the side, like green beans or broccoli. Every time my husband and I had corn or peas with dinner, he would make green beans or broccoli and he would eat them. I remember how proud I was a year after realizing that he had literally doubled his plant vocabulary.
I took advantage of the fact that he loved Chinese and Indian cuisines in particular to try sauces on the vegetables. The General Tso sauce was a favorite, especially for the broccoli. Low sodium teriyaki sauce with a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce and a little margarine was another. I wish last week’s vindaloo sauce had been around back then, because you would have tried all sorts of new vegetables if they had been served to you in that layer of cilantro and tomato-based hot chilis.
Think about the flavor profiles you enjoy when it’s time to let someone else do the cooking. If you like a certain seasoning on meats, chances are you’ll like it on vegetables. Spice things up a bit with easy-to-use food staples in the fridge and pantry, and you’ll find that you don’t always have to shell out takeout prices for successful experiments.
If the newbie vegetarian loves chicken wings, heat up some hot sauce with a little margarine and add the steamed veggies. Making it at home means you can set the heat to your own preferred searing zone. The buffalo wing flavors taste especially good on cauliflower. One of my favorite experimental meals involved tossing some shrimp into a quick homemade Buffalo sauce and tossing it over grits in a lazy girl version of shrimp and grits. It was simple but sensational, and each time I try again, there will be little cauliflower florets and some thinly sliced orange and yellow bell peppers.
A friend who hated both cauliflower and broccoli challenged himself a few years ago to marinate a little of each in the bottled fat-free Italian seasoning he used on the beef and chicken skewers for his grill. He left the bowl in his fridge for about an hour to allow the flavors to absorb before trying the vegetables, and he came away a new fan. A favorite seasoning and an open mind can work magic in the kitchen.
It’s important to watch sodium levels and calories, so be sure to read the labels on bottled and packaged sauces and serve them sparingly. You also don’t want them to become a crutch; Eventually, your veggie hater (or you, if you’re the culprit) will need to learn how to eat some greens with just a hint of herbs. But no matter what your nutritional goals are, it’s important to have flavors that shine.
And when you’re ready to splurge, or just don’t feel like cooking, try something plant-centric and appealing in your next takeout order. Palak paneer might win over an Indian foodie who thinks you don’t like spinach, and Szechuan green beans from your favorite Chinese restaurant might change your mind, too. Restaurant recognition almost always pays off in fresh flavor ideas.
Keep in mind that someone who doesn’t eat vegetables probably needs to know about some alternatives to meat as well. Any of these sauces can give scrambled eggs and firm cubes or slices of tofu a familiar and appealing flavor profile. Someone who swears they don’t like tofu but gobbles up Chinese sweet and sour soup is in for a delicious and healthy surprise.