Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don’t be scared of vegetables

Growing up, I rarely ate vegetables. I had the occasional side of corn or peas, yes, but it never stemmed (pun intended) far from that. Some of my family’s favorite dinner conversations were my mom’s horror stories about “Vegetable of the Week." She and her siblings were forced to eat poorly cooked, un-flavorful, often mushy vegetables one day every week. No wonder she didn’t pass down a love of vegetables to her kids... Vegetables, to me, were something to be scared of and certainly not something to enjoy.

Vegetables were what grown-ups ate at parties when they were on a diet. They somehow managed to pass up the homemade, double layered, oozing-with-chocolate-sauce brownies for a sad looking tray of store-bought veggies. If they’re laid out in a pretty circle, they taste better... right? Maybe so, but not for me. Veggies were scary.

India taught me to love vegetables. I recently traveled to India for two months in what was a life-changing study abroad trip. I am thankful for my experience for many reasons, one of which is the broadening of my food horizons.

India is a majority Hindu nation and one of the major principles of Hinduism is abstinence from meat. There are about 500 million vegetarians in India and most restaurants are either labeled as “veg” or “non-veg” for the practicality of consumer choices.

Needless to say, India was a great place to acquaint myself with vegetables. I had vegetables at almost every meal… and not just peas and corn. I ate cauliflower, okra, spinach, zucchini, mushroom, carrots, radishes, yam… the list goes on. A hella ton of veggies. Certainly more than I’d ever consumed in my lifetime.

India is also famous for its delicious spices. Almost all Indian dishes are smothered in spicy sauces (my spice tolerance seriously shot through the roof). This made for some seriously delicious veggie dishes… something I never thought I’d say.

When I got back from my trip, I was ready to tackle the dining hall with a newfound appreciation for vegetables and the readiness to take on the vegetarian options they had. Worst idea ever. When I asked for a big plate of cauliflower (one of my personal favs in India), I got an overcooked, flavorless, translucent pile of mush. I suddenly remembered why I used to be scared of vegetables.

But I didn’t want to give up all the delicious veggie dishes that I had discovered in India, so I took matters in my own hands. I was still hankering for some cauliflower, so I did a little search on the Google machine and found a recipe for roasted cauliflower with red chili, cilantro, and lime. It. Was. Fantastic. Faith in veggies restored!

Here is my version of the recipe, with a few minor tweaks to the original. I urge you to try it, even if you don’t like cauliflower, or even if you’re still scared of veggies. If I, meatatarian extraordinaire, can become a veggie lover... anyone can.

Roasted cauliflower with red chili, cilantro, and lime

Since I mainly cook for myself (plus leftovers) I chose to only use half of a head of cauliflower, but if you’re feeling ambitious or extra-hungry, go crazy and make the whole head! Just double the recipe.

What you'll need: 

  • 1/2 head of a large cauliflower, or 1 head small cauliflower
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/4ish lime, juiced
  • salt to taste

What you need to do:  

Preheat oven to 300 F. Separate the florets from the cauliflower and toss them in a bowl with the garlic, chile powder, cumin, salt & olive oil until they’re well coated.

Spread the deliciously seasoned cauliflower in a shallow roasting pan, then put it in the conveniently pre-heated oven for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking and crispiness on the outside (don’t want to miss out on the crispies).

When your cauliflower is done cooking, take it out of the oven (duh). Dress it with lime juice for an extra kick of flavor and sprinkle it with cilantro to make it look fancy. It’ll impress your friends. 

The end result is a super flavorful, healthy side dish that I find pairs particularly well with Mexican dishes because of the chili and cilantro. 

Note: If you wanna get crazy, I’m sure you could try this with broccoli or add a little onion if you want to make it sweeter! I just like to stick to cauliflower when I’m reminiscing about India.


So please, take my word for it. You don’t have to take a trip to the other side of the world to realize that veggies can be delicious. Stick to your kitchen- it's a whole lot cheaper. 

Original recipe here
Vegetable picture sources here and here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm gonna try it!! It's DEFINITELY not "vegetable of the week"!! I also love the new layout :)