Monthly Archives: May 2011

Big Plate o’ Roasted Veggies

One of the highlights of my Seattle trip with Wife last month was getting to meet my in-laws’ friends—an adorable, hilarious family of four with one more on the way.

We met this delightful little family for lunch on Friday.  The highlight of lunch (apart from the conversation, of course) was the “smashed potato” side dish that was served with many of our entrees.  Now, “smashed potatoes” are usually just mashed potatoes with a cutesy (annoying) name on the menu—not these!  These were little skin-on potatoes that had been literally smashed while pan-frying.  Doused with salt and garlic, they were little bites of heaven.

I decided I had to re-create these little guys at home, which I did as part of a larger all-veggie dinner.  Because they’re pretty oily, I ate them with roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts, which made me feel just a tad less guilty about the indulgence.  Read on for how to make your own decadent-yet-mostly-healthful all-veggie dinner.

Smashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

Small red or yellow potatoes (the smaller the better)*

Olive oil

Salt

Garlic

  1. Start by scrubbing your potatoes.  Pierce each one a couple of times with a fork, but don’t go overboard—we want the skin to hold together pretty well when we smash them later.  Do not cut the potatoes in any way! *Note – I used Trader Joe’s Fingerling Potatoes, which come in a bag you can pop in the microwave, and which eliminate the need for Steps 1 and 2.  I think fresh potatoes taste a bit better though, so you can choose based on your timing needs and/or laziness quotient.
  2. Boil the potatoes until tender.  Check them after 10 minutes by piercing with a fork, and again every 5 minutes until done.   How long they will take varies greatly with the size of the potatoes.
  3. Heat a couple of tablespoons (kind of a bunch) of olive oil in a large skillet.  Once the oil is nice and hot, add the drained potatoes.
  4. Using the flat bottom of a heavy glass or mug, smash each potato until it squashes into a sort of patty.  You may need to use your spatula to scrape each potato gently off the bottom of the glass.  It will look messy, but that’s part of the goodness.        
  5. Add salt and minced garlic, swishing around until you have good coverage.
  6. Allow the potatoes to brown, then flip and continue cooking until done.  Serve as-is, or with ketchup, chutney, barbecue sauce, etc.  I like them straight up.

Carrot Fries

These babies just about scratch my itch for French fries, and they’re actually good for you!  Just be sure to control yourself on the oil and salt—I promise I will too, next time.  Maybe I’ll even try making them with cooking spray—the moistness of the carrots just might make up for the lack of oily goodness.  As you can see in the photos, I added some potato scraps I had lying around to make traditional oven fries as well.

Ingredients:

Big bunch of carrots

Olive oil

Salt

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Slice carrots into 3-4” spears, slicing again lengthwise to achieve somewhat-even thickness.  I like them slightly smaller than classic steak fries.
  3. Toss carrots, a glug of olive oil, and a few good shakes/cranks of salt in a zip-top bag or large bowl until well coated.  I like a bit more salt on these than on your usual roasted veggies, because we’re looking for that French fry experience, and because salt balances carrots’ sweetness so nicely.
  4. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes.  Check on them, flip or stir them, and continue baking until nicely browned/charred.  Check these every 3 minutes or so, as they can go from orange to black in a flash.
  5. Serve on their own, or with tofu sour cream mixed with salsa (yum).

Perfect Brussels Sprouts

I used to roast my sprouts in the oven, and boy howdy they were good.  Now, however, I am proud to call myself a convert—pan-roasting all the way!  Serve these to your resident Brussels sprouts haters, and I bet you’ll have some converts of your own.

Ingredients:

20 or so Brussels sprouts

Cooking spray (I use the olive oil kind)

Salt

Black pepper

Garlic paste or minced garlic

  1. Cut a slice of the little butt off each sprout, then cut each sprout in half from top to bottom.  If you’re working with big sprouts, cut them again to form four skinny quarter-sprouts.  Toss in a colander and rinse well.
  2. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the sprouts.
  3. Toss the sprouts with salt, pepper, and garlic and cover.  If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try to make sure that most of the sprouts are cut-side-down, but this really isn’t necessary.
  4. Cover the sprouts and allow them to cook in their own juices and steam (from the water they emit, and from whatever water was left on them from rinsing) for 5 minutes without tossing them around.  This allows them to get nice and brown on one side.  After this initial browning, toss them every few minutes and keep covered as much as possible to allow them to get nice and tender.

Tips:

  1. If you notice things getting dry before the sprouts are tender, add a tablespoon of water to the pan and cover again.  Repeat as needed.  I did not need to add any water at all.
  2. If the sprouts get too browned before they get tender, reduce the heat and add water as described above.  This switches the process from pan-frying to steaming and can help the sprouts cook through without getting any darker.

VOILA!  You have a nice big plate of veggies with only a little decadence (and tons of flavor).  This was more than enough to satisfy Wife and me—leaving us full of food, but not full of remorse.

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Multi-faceted Laziness

Where the F have I been, you ask?  Well, that’s Side 1 of my multi-faceted laziness – I just haven’t motivated myself to cook or write much lately.  I’m getting back on that bus, though, so watch out!  (No, seriously, watch out for more posts so you don’t miss them or their extreme awesomeness.)

Side 2 of my laziness is what I’ve been eating lately, in the absence of motivation to cook.

Yes, it’s true.  There are days when I don’t feel like eating healthful, whole, vegan foods.  SHOCK.  As I know I am your perfect shining example of How to Eat and Be Healthy, I will allow you time to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Anyway, that means I need those days when I don’t have to cook, I don’t have to think too much about what the nutrient density of my foods might be, and I just feel like eating foods from packages (like a normal freaking person).

For those days, I often turn to the amazing Indian food packets from Trader Joe’s.  Did you know Indian food comes in packets?  GOD BLESS AMERICA.  Many (all?) of them are vegan, and they are lacking in six-syllable ingredients, which is sometimes the only requirement I can force myself to follow.  For you Eat-to-Livers (livers, heh), it’s definitely rocking some salt and oil, but it’s one of the best packaged lunches I’ve found for folks eating a high-nutrient diet.

My favorite is Punjab Choley.  It is garbanzos with a spicy tomato-based sauce, which makes it similar—or maybe identical—to Punjabi channa, and like spicier channa masala.  On those days I don’t even feel like throwing together my tahini dressing, I heat the Punjab Choley and toss the whole packet on top of a giant bowl of greens.  Delicious, easy, and still pretty “whole.”   Eat ’em up, y’all.

Look for this guy in the beans/soup/grains aisle: