Cheap, easy, good
April 13, 2016 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Like most everyone else, I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables into my diet. I'm specifically looking to expand my repertoire of low-effort vegetable side dishes based on inexpensive produce of the sort your mother/grandmother is familiar with (carrots, celery, cabbage, zucchini, onions, etc.). I've got no qualms about frozen or canned produce in theory and so would welcome ideas that make the most of those options. Salad/slaw ideas are also welcome.

Complicating factors:
(1) I don't like the intrinsic taste of most vegetables. Vegetables "lightly steamed with a dab of butter" are eaten only out of a grim sense of duty. So something needs to happen to alter that, such as pan or oven roasting, or ensaucening.
(2) For Reasons, I'm only looking for side dishes and not main courses that incorporate a lot of vegetables
(3) MrDrLith eats low carb high fat no sugar no grains so I try to respect that where possible. He does eat dairy tho.
posted by drlith to Food & Drink (56 answers total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
I know you said "inexpensive", but fennel is often fairly cheap, so perhaps you would enjoy Fennel Baked in Cream - no grains at all.

Other ideas:
Onions Baked With Cream
Curry Roasted Cauliflower and/or Broccoli
Roasted Carrots and/or Parsnips with Citrus Butter
posted by dotgirl at 6:59 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. Gather bag of brussels sprouts.
2. Rinse them under cold water and dry.
3. Halve brussels sprouts with a knife.
4. Put them in a 1L or 1G ziplock bag.
5. Add to the bag salt, pepper, and/or your favorite simple spices to taste.
6. Add big slug of Olive Oil to the bag.
7. Seal the bag good and shake it up.
8. Spread bag contents evenly on a cookie sheet prepped with tinfoil (for easy serving/cleanup).
9. Broil for about 7 minutes, then flip the halves over* and continue to broil for another 5-10 minutes until they're browning.

* Arrange the halves round side-down on the sheet when you first put them in. It's a lot easier to flip a super hot brussels sprout half onto it's cut side than vice-versa.

You can make this recipe even better by adding some carrots and sweet potatoes to the mix.
posted by carsonb at 7:00 PM on April 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

What does a typical meal look like for you? Meat and potatoes? Casserole? Tacos? You don't mention much of anything in the way of spices-- do you prefer fairly classic American/French-when-fancy seasoning, or are you interested in exploring different cuisines? How much time are you willing to spend chopping things?
posted by yarntheory at 7:00 PM on April 13, 2016

Broccoli. Tossed in olive oil to coat, salt, pepper, cumin, chili flake to your taste. Roast until brown and getting crunchy.

Same with cauliflower, omit the chili and roast until almost black.

Both work in a 350-450 oven. Broccoli 20-30 min, cauli 40-60.

You said no mains but this does kill two birds with one stone: make lasagna, instead of noodles use cabbage leaves steamed or boiled until tender, cooled rapidly in ice water.

Most vegetables make nice purees that are easy to eat a lot of.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:02 PM on April 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Learn how to make a variety of coleslaw and Caesar dressings. Lettuce, cabbage and shredded carrots are relatively inexpensive and trivially turned into delicious side dishes that way, and you have a lot of options.

Roast broccoli and cauliflower, rather than steaming or boiling. It gives them both a great, rich, nutty taste that's the difference between "mom said eat your vegetables young man" and "I like this for real, I eat it on purpose." You can get away with a bit of oil and coarse salt here without regretting it, but cheese or tahini sauces will not see you wrong if you're inclined to put the work in.

Epicurious is a good way to dig into more options.
posted by mhoye at 7:02 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is my favorite vegetable dish because of how easy it is and how cozy it tastes- savory and sweet from the vegetables caramelizing. I also eat low carb these days so I leave out the carrots and reduce the onions when making it for myself.

My second favorite because of how well its slightly sour taste works with strongly flavored meat dishes is nopales, sautéed in some butter until they start to blister a little and sprinkled with salt. The jarred ones are cheap, and tart enough that they don't need further seasoning, but there are lots of good nopalitos recipes if you don't like them plain (adding peppers and onions and sautéing before sprinkling with a bit of cheese, for example). They're also good for low carb and have been used in traditional folk medicine for increasing insulin sensitivity, among other benefits.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Zucchini: wash them and take a good, sharp peeler to them (I have an OXO) to create thin ribbons into a bowl. Splash with a little olive oil, some salt and pepper. If you have some nuts (crumbled walnuts, slivered almonds, etc) toast them in a pan for a few minutes. Throw them in. Zest a lemon over top. Toss and let it sit for a while. Not too long, since the salt draws water out of the zucchini, but also makes it tender. Crumble in some goat cheese if you like, not necessary, but hey - cheese. Splash with a little balsamic vinegar (or not).

Carrots: cut some carrots into one-inch pieces. Stand them up in a baking pan in sufficient density that they're crowded in. Smash up or thinly slice some garlic and sprinkle in. Pour in some balsamic vinegar (el cheapo will do) so they're 25 per cent immersed, splash with olive oil (or drops some pats of butter over top), salt and pepper if you like, and roast them in a 375-400 oven for 45 minutes, or until they're fork tender.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:10 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

carson b beat me to it, but I also came here to suggest roasted Brussels sprouts. I think I prefer them to French fries at this point. (And I love — LOVE — French fries.)
posted by dondiego87 at 7:18 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

You can cook just about any vegetable by sauteeing it in bacon fat, and it's always going to improve the taste!

After cooking your bacon, don't drain the pan. Add your roughly sliced vegetables (I've done this with brussels sprouts, carrots, green beans, sweet potato, kale, but really, the sky's the limit). Don't let the pan get so hot it smokes, but keep it warm enough that the veges eventually brown a bit.

Add salt and pepper if you like.

posted by lollusc at 7:19 PM on April 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

Leftover roasted veg, reheated in a skillet in which you then fry an egg, makes for an excellent anytime meal.
posted by padraigin at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2016

This carrot salad. Quick curtido to go with tacos or similar flavors.

Carrot avocado salad thing: shred carrots. Sauté crushed garlic in a little olive oil and mix it into the carrots. Salt to taste and top with avocado chunks.
posted by clavicle at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Roasted, roasted, roasted. Any kind of veggie tastes better after roasting. Get a seasoned cast iron skillet. Or a sheet pan covered in foil. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in pan. Add chopped veggies of any kind. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, celery, Brussels sprouts, sliced squash, anything. Use your hands to roll them around so they are coated with oil, or drizzle more oil on top. Sprinkle with pepper and sea salt to start. Experiment with other flavors later. Bake at 400 degrees, the time depends on the veggie.mpotatoes take about 45 minutes, others only 30 or so. Half way through, toss them around with a spatula.
posted by raisingsand at 7:24 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

My wife loves grilled zucchini. Cut them into little slices (about 1/8" thick, like hamburger pickles), drizzle with olive oil, add some Parmesan cheese and/or some garlic and herb seasoning, and throw them on the grill until they're nicely brown. /
posted by kevinbelt at 7:24 PM on April 13, 2016

Have you really considered your raw options? The following taste (almost) like candy:

Red/orange bell pepper
Baby carrots
Sugar snap peas.

These can all be thrown (or chopped) on a plate or in a Tupperware for transport. Ranch dressing (or another dressing) could spice these up. But they're my go to everyday veggies because I snack on them at work. And they're zero effort. And I buy them in bulk. And my toddler will eat them. But also because they're really sweet and tastey.
posted by Kalmya at 7:24 PM on April 13, 2016

So I was raised on pickled beets, and, with respect to my dear sainted mother, canned pickled beets are god-awful. Actual uncooked beets, however, are crunchy like carrots but sweet and delicious in a different way from carrots! I find one way to avoid being bored with salads is to just put as much different things in them as possible, and raw beets are great for that, since they add a lovely color and taste quite different relative to many other salad ingredients. All you have to do is peel them and chop them up (this will look pretty metal because they're sort of heart-sized and get beet juice on you which is a lovely dark purple red color, but it washes out of skin and cutting boards pretty well in my experience). I guess you could also cut them up like carrot sticks and eat 'em that way too.

They do have a lot of naturally-occurring sugar in them so maybe not the best for your partner but they make salads way more palatable for me.

The other thing I do is disguise veggies in smoothies. Bananas, cheap frozen berries and milk/yogurt will hide a lot of spinach you had to freeze before it went bad.
posted by dismas at 7:32 PM on April 13, 2016

If you have a deep-fryer, you should deep-fry broccoli florets.

You want them dry and cold. IE, if you rinse them, dry them really good.
Fry them until you can see desiccation happening on the stalks, then yank them out quick.
Immediately douse with equal parts soy sauce and malt vinegar.
Sprinkle with red chili pepper flakes and eat ASAP.
It should be HOT and you might choke and die on the vinegar fumes but you will be OK with that because


note: I cajoled parts of/techniques for this recipe out of Ilan Hall before he closed The Gorbals. The rest was done trial-and-error with a little help from my friends.
posted by carsonb at 7:34 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Plain green zucchini is a bit of a snooze for me, but I'm a big fan of this zucchini butter. I've made it with different aromatics (shallot/leek/red onion/scallion, etc).

It takes a huge pile of grated zucchini and cooks it down to a buttery tasting, easy to eat bit of tastiness. I eat it as a side dish, scoop it up on crackers, put it on sandwiches as a spread, etc.
posted by jenquat at 7:37 PM on April 13, 2016

I like this broccoli slaw abd make it with a bag of pre-shredded broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage.
posted by lakeroon at 7:39 PM on April 13, 2016

I used to buy bagged salads for work lunches, but since buying a food processor I've found it pretty convenient to make my own. Red cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts, broccoli, all shredded up make a good starting point for loads of different types of slaws, or stir fry, or salad. I usually throw some chopped up kale or collard greens in there too.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:41 PM on April 13, 2016

Green beans: steam them real quick, like five minutes? They should still be bright green. Remove from steamer, dress with soy sauce and dark sesame oil. (Ponzu might be even more delicious than soy sauce here.) Sprinkle with sesame seeds for texture, if you have them. Refrigerate them in the dressing and serve cold.
posted by clavicle at 7:45 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is the best broccoli ever. Seriously. I don't even like broccoli, and I ate about a head of it (don't do that). I don't bother washing it beforehand, because I don't want it to steam and I like to live dangerously. If you do wash it, make sure it's completely dry, otherwise you won't get the delightful caramelization bits.
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:52 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is there a Trader Joe's near you? They sell a spicy peanut vinaigrette that makes just about anything taste like a treat.

Specifically: Shred a small purple cabbage and a small napa cabbage or romaine lettuce on the fine disk of the cuisinart. Julienne some bell peppers. Chop up a couple big handfuls of cilantro, maybe some mint if you have it. Squeeze a lime or two in there. Now add some of that peanut vinaigrette, mix it all up, taste and marvel at what an amazing vegetable-cook you are. (I hate raw carrots, but if you don't, add them too. Can easily be made into a main by adding shredded meat or diced tofu or noodles.) Make it spicy if you want by adding a minced jalapeno.

Edit: it is trivially easy to make your own peanut vinaigrette, just melt some peanut butter and add water, vinegar and sugar basically. But even easier to buy.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:53 PM on April 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Sesame oil is the biggest ally of bland, frozen vegetables you can imagine - by which I mean the kinds of 5 pound bags you see with diced carrots, peas, corn, and other flavorless junk. I generally have a bag of our local grocery store's finest, cheapest mixed frozen veggies somewhere in my freezer, out of a vague obligation to the food pyramid. Stirfried in a pan to defrost, then doused in sesame oil and coarse salt and left to char a little over high heat, they're delicious in spite of their breeding.

Adding additional spices or sauces will bring it to meet a lot of styles of cuisine, and it's cheap and easy as all hell.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:03 PM on April 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've taken to adding sunflower seeds (cheapest protein option, not much flavor) and then drowning everything in salad dressing.
posted by aniola at 8:06 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also I am in love with jicama. It's like water chestnuts but cheaper.
posted by aniola at 8:07 PM on April 13, 2016

Oh! Buy a bunch of onions, dice 'em, stick 'em in an oiled pan on low, wait like an hour (stirring occasionally) and boom! you now have a pan full of camelized onions, which you can add to EVERYTHING. Or throw some mustard and cumin seeds in at the beginning and blend the cooked onions at the end for an onion spread.

The trick for me has also been to cut everything up. Imagine a salad bar at a cafeteria. Everything's all pre-chopped. This makes it easy, right? Works the same way at home. It's way easier to look at carrot sticks and shredded kale and realize that you've got most of a side dish right there. So prechop!
posted by aniola at 8:12 PM on April 13, 2016

Keep heads of garlic near your cutting board, keep your cutting board near your stove. So, some vegetables need seven minutes of steaming to be saute ready, carrots, potatoes of any kind, cabbage, broccoli, beets, so. Start the steamer if you are going to use these. Then start chopping the garlic, put it in the pan in one Tablespoon of olive, or pure grape seed oil, put in basil, or fresh basil, or dill if you like it. Then put in onions if you like them, celery is always a nice addition, summer squash, zucchini, yellow squash, whatever you have on top of the onions and garlic, and whatever spice you like. Get a seasoning salt like Spike, if you are salt restricted, try Mrs. Dash. Put the steamed veggies in after they are soft. If you want to throw in cherry tomatoes, and a little wine that is good. You will find some combinations you like.

Cutting up the vegetables in different shapes, makes them look more interesting. I always cut celery on a diagonal, so the pieces are an inch or inch and a half long. Red peppers are nice cut in strips as part of the onion garlic saute; they add such nice color.

So figure out what you might like best and put it together. I also like some sprouts, but sunflower sprouts are pretty and really good. Good luck with this.
posted by Oyéah at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2016

Thanks for the ideas so far! To answer a couple of questions:
(1) Right now I'm living with one person who eats pretty strict keto and one person who doesn't like cooked vegetables at all and is EAT ALL THE CARBS, so meals tend to be separate protein, separate starch, separate vegetable. This makes me profoundly sad as I'm a casserole/one-pot kinda gal, but that's another askme entirely.
(2) I've got a pretty wide variety of spices and condiments, and I like a wide variety of cuisines. I'm particularly interested in learning more Korean cooking.
(3) I'm a very experienced cook, albeit a bit old-school and flyover country in my home cooking preferences. I'm just in a bit of a rut and kind of frustrated. So I should have specified that I'm not so much looking for general techniques (I do know about roasting veggies) as actual recipes or at least specific combinations of ingredients.
posted by drlith at 8:38 PM on April 13, 2016

I like to roast chopped sweet potatos and onions in some olive oil with Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder. Cauliflower also goes in the mix sometimes.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:35 PM on April 13, 2016

Here are three easy takes on cabbage + other veg + meat + starch that don't need the ingredients to marry much, so might work in your situation:

My favorite korean-ish quick meal is simply steamed rice, chicken breast (optional), kimchi, and sauteed greens such as beet greens. The kimchi pretty well dominates most of the taste of the greens. There are some quick kimchee recipes I've been meaning to try, but store-bought is fine.

Sauerkraut goes well with a meat and potatoes type meal, but the store bought stuff is not appealing. A quick, non-fermented sauerkraut is totally worth making. Basically, slice the cabbage (not as thin as the storebought krauts), pickle not too long in a mix of heated brine and vinegar, and bake with the potatoes and meat.

Or how about the essential taste of takeout chinese food? Thinly slice 1/3rd of a cabbage, saute in a pan (nonstick or use eg, a little grapeseed oil) until it goes tender and reduces in size, drizzle on a small amount of sesame oil. For something so simple this tastes amazing in that greasy takeout way. Throw in some snow peas or steamed brocolli. Serve with rice or noodles and some appropriately sauced mystery meat.
posted by joeyh at 10:15 PM on April 13, 2016

I don't go for recipes much so here are a few techniques which are in common rotation chez tavegyl. I adapt to whatever vegetable I happen to have on hand within reasonable limits.

I liked the Serious Eats technique guide to quick Chinese greens for giving me a sense of flavouring proportions and basic technique. This might be too basic and/or vegetable-ish for what you're after.

I make a Pakistani style bhaji (dry vegetable curry) out of just about anything. This is similar to the basic technique we use at home (use sliced fresh green chillies instead of the paste), though I like it drier than this, and I adapt cooking times, water quantity etc to vegetables on hand.

I also cook a bastardised South Indian: this starts off with tempering mustard seeds, browning some unsweetened coconut, adding onions, ginger, green chillies, cumin and curry leaves (can be frozen), adding the vegetables, and finishing with a hefty squeeze of lime and some coriander. This is entirely a personal invention though so no claims about authenticity or suggestions on quantities.
posted by tavegyl at 10:49 PM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oops, carsonb made a wee mistake in his recipe. Here, I've fixed it:

1. Gather bag of Brussels sprouts
2. Place those sulfurous stink-bombs directly in the trash.
3. Prepare a delicious but under-appreciated vegetable such as the parsnip. They're cheap, nutritious, versatile, known to most grandmothers, palatable even by those who "don't like the intrinsic taste of most vegetables"... and yes you can roast them for extra numminess.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:34 PM on April 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Boil veggies until they're limp, rinse well, drown in a highly flavored fat describes most middle of the road veggie recipes and restaurant dishes acceptable to my friends who eat veggies because it's good for them.
posted by Homer42 at 11:37 PM on April 13, 2016

Easy veggie side dish: sautée some chopped garlic, onion, and/or shallots in some fat (olive oil and/or butter for French version, sesame oil for Japanese version) until soft. Add some shiitake shrooms and ginger for the Japanese version, button/chanterelle/porcini mushrooms for the French, stir, and sautée for a minute or two. Put a bag of frozen green beans in pan, possibly with a bit of water, cover and simmer on med-low until texture is as desired. If preparing the Japanese version, toast some sesame seeds and place those and some soy sauce on top just before serving. If preparing French version, salt and toast some almonds and place on top.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 11:42 PM on April 13, 2016

Roast beets, peel, refrigerate even. Mix together your favorite sour cream horseradish sauce. Ours is 1 cup of sour cream, 2 tbsp prepared horseradish, salt & pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, can be made ahead. Sauté sliced or diced beets in olive oil to warm/crisp them as you like, dip or dollop sour cream sauce & eat.
posted by childofTethys at 3:49 AM on April 14, 2016

I make a version of Champ that my wife really loves. Champ is an Irish recipe of mashed potatoes and green onions. I make it with half a bag of frozen spinach. Just cook potatoes however you have learned to do (mine are boiled with onion and whole garlic cloves until soft, then mashed with butter, salt and pepper and either cream or milk, or maybe even a little sour cream and/or chicken stock) and stir in several handfuls of the spinach as you mash.

My wife has an iron deficiency, so I'm always trying to sneak in iron-rich veggies whenever I can. She also loved this kimchee and spam recipe, which I made yesterday, but be warned, something about this dish results in truly marvelous naps.
posted by valkane at 4:41 AM on April 14, 2016

Baby carrots, sugar snap peas, any other veggie you can eat raw, with hummus as a dip. Eat them like chips.

Cucumbers and red onions cut up in vinegar with a little brown sugar, chopped dill. keep in the refrigerator, ready to eat any time.
posted by mermayd at 4:45 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chop up and grill or saute all the veggies you mentioned or more all at once. Use them with fajitas or tacos or filler for enchiladas or lasagna or as their own side. Also, roast potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, onion, etc. and then use this similarly - great for soups. I typically do both at the beginning of the week and then use throughout the week in almost everything I make or they work very well as their own side. The more veggies the better and it's relatively easy. There's really no limit - put them in a burger, in any sandwich, etc. It's about 20 minutes of cooking that is then used in every meal throughout the week.
posted by xammerboy at 5:17 AM on April 14, 2016

Dumbest salad I know :
Cabbage. Shredded.
Fennel seeds. Crushed.
Apple cider vinegar.
(oil & salt to taste)
posted by tawnyportmanteau at 6:05 AM on April 14, 2016

I'm obsessed with b. oleracea preparations lately. Roasting is best, but if you're going for stove-top, I've also had some luck with this preparation:

In the bottom of a heavy-ish pan, add about 1/2 an inch of water. Place desired vegetable in water. Crank up the heat. Place loose-fitting cover over pan. After boiling/steaming for 2-3 minutes, kill the heat and drain off the remaining water. Add a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat back up to high, and fry everything until it has little brown crackly exposed bits.

Works for broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, and other things like asparagus and carrot medallions.
posted by Mayor West at 6:18 AM on April 14, 2016

Spicy Cauliflower stir fry Super tasty, quick and cheap.

you could probably do broccoli or any other hardy veg in the same manner and could also switch the siracha for another hot sauce.
posted by domino at 6:45 AM on April 14, 2016

Savoy cabbage, cutoff the base, separate the leaves, rip out & discard the thick stems and rougly chop. Melt a respectable piece of butter in a large pan on max heat til it's done bubbling and begins to smell like pancakes. Toss in your cabbage (and some caraway if you like/have) and cook - stir only as whatever bits touching the pan begin to brown, until it looks good. Salt to taste. I think I might make this myself later...
posted by STFUDonnie at 7:56 AM on April 14, 2016

My most recent discovery is roasted sweet potatoes. Rinse whole with water, 30ish minutes in the toaster oven at 400F. Cut open, and drizzle with a little agave syrup and cinnamon and lately turmeric. Eat everything, including the crunchy, carmelized skin. Bliss!!!!! Could easily be a snack/dessert substitute too. Generally roasting veggies is MVP.
posted by amileighs at 8:31 AM on April 14, 2016

We do "appetizer night" on Saturdays. One component is a roasted veggie platter - roasted broccoli, califlower, carrots, fennel, baby potatoes, bell peppers, green beans. If I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll make a "dip" for the veggies. Dips have been remoulade sauce, caesar dressing, peanut sauce or lemon-tahini dressing.
posted by sarajane at 9:28 AM on April 14, 2016

Consider also vegetable soups. Here's a general recipe for just about any veg you have on hand. I've had very good soup from unexpected vegetables that aren't usually on my menu. (rutabega/turnips was delicious, also hot cucumber soup).
You can do a similar technique to make a thick vegetable puree, which you can then use as sauce for all sorts of things (over pasta, to simmer chicken in, as dip with bread or crudites)
posted by aimedwander at 10:06 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is the task for which sauce was invented: adding and changing flavors.

Lots of the famous sauces can be made in the microwave. White sauce is easy but boring, however white sauce plus cheese makes cheese sauce. White sauce plus potatoes make scalloped potatoes. Etc.

I think the cookbook you want is for "quick French cooking".
posted by SemiSalt at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2016

For vegetables, I typically want to impart more flavour to them, although salt+butter works fine in many situations I find it a bit boring for my palette most of the time.

This might be too "adventuresome" to you, but maybe try frying green beans with sambal paste (comes in a jar from "ethnic/Asian" grocery stores). Sambal is primarily Indonesian.

Clean the beans, pinch off the ends. Allow to remain damp from cleaning.

Heat a little oil in an appropriately sized frying pan. You can fry up some crushed garlic an onions/scallions, too, or sprinkle on dried garlic granules after you dump the beans in. Add a teaspoon (adjust for taste) of the sambal paste and fry for a minute or so. Dump the beans into the frying pan and stir/toss. If you get the moisture and temperature right, the sambal will stick to the beans.

If you like, the next level is to get your hands on some shrimp paste (with chunks of shrimp - not the purplish stuff; that's a whole next level to flavour and isn't really appropriate for vegetables, it's usually used in an extraordinarily pungent steamed/hot-pot pork dish) and add that on top of the sambal. Shrimp paste is mostly Cantonese.

Another potential addition is chili flakes in oil to increase the heat. This is pretty pan-Asian.

Another way I flavour up my vegetables is to cook them with meat. Beef broccoli is really simple, the gravy from the meat (add a little bit of sugar to your meat flavouring will get it to produce more gravy) gets into the broccoli florettes and gives them a bit more flavour. I like to throw in chopped up (fresh or canned) pineapple into the mix; the tanginess is great and the citric acid helps you to absorb iron from the meat more efficiently.

Or sticking with vegetarian vegetable dishes, look for (mostly) dried (salted) black beans (mostly Cantonese). Briefly rehydrate them in warm water (rinse a couple of times to clean the black beans), ~5-10 minutes. Fry the rehydrated salted black beans, then throw on the veggies (broccoli is good). Similar idea to cooking vegetables with meat.

In this scenario, you can also make a little sauce for the dish by combining 1 part oyster sauce, 1 part Chinese cooking wine (the pale brown stuff is better than the clear stuff), (I like to add another 1 part mirin), and about 2-3 parts water. Mix well, set aside. When the vegetables are 90% done, dump the sauce on top and keep cooking (at a slightly reduced temperature). Immediately mix a little tapioca starch (corn starch is fine, but is more opaque; tapioca starch is more translucent) with water. Add a little at a time and keep stirring until you get the consistency that you want. 1 heaping tablespoon in 15 mL of water is about right for ~200 mL of original sauce.

Or do the steamed vegetables (gai lan is good for this, or broccolini, which is essentially the same thing) and just drizzle oyster sauce on top, straight from the bottle.
posted by porpoise at 10:47 AM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite side-dish vegetables is actually the cucumber. A local farmer grows hothouse cucumbers, so we can get them at times of the year when there's nothing else green and fresh available locally, and even the imported ones are competitive in price with out-of-season zucchini. I make an Algerian cucumber salad along the lines of this one, or you could make a vaguely Asian salad with rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sesame seeds (add some matchstick-y carrots if you want to make it more substantial), or try a cucumber kim chi. Something I learned from reading Fuchsia Dunlop is that you can also stir-fry cucumbers. If you cut out the seeds, they really taste a lot like zucchini in that manifestation.
posted by yarntheory at 5:58 PM on April 14, 2016

I like loaded roasted sweet potatoes. I roast a whole sweet potato, and also cut up brussel sprouts, red onion, red bell pepper, toss with olive oil, zaatar spice. Roast at 400 for about 40 minutes. Stuff sweet potato with veggies.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 7:23 PM on April 14, 2016

This zucchini, rice, and cheese gratin by Smitten Kitchen is amaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. I don't even like zucchini and I've eaten an entire dish of it in one sitting. Smitten Kitchen has a lot of veg-heavy dishes that are delicious. I particularly recommend this butternut squash and chickpea salad, which I've made with all types of winter squash and beans - right now I have a sweet potato and black bean version in my fridge. I think someone else recommended her harissa carrot salad with feta and mint, but please allow me to heartily second that.

Yeah. Smitten Kitchen does vegetables for people don't think vegetables are worth writing home about.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:19 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of good suggestions in this thread. You can try this recipe or create a variant for your Keto roommate. It is an excellent and unusual side. I have done a variant and left the cauliflower in smaller bits, rather than a puree.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:28 AM on April 15, 2016

Like zerobyproxy, I enjoy cauliflower rice made on my box cheese shredder.
posted by carsonb at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2016

Vegetarian for 25 years; vegan cook for 2 little girls for 5+. It's not easy. (The no grains things makes it even harder ...)

1. My first thought is roasted vegetables, like carrots, cauliflowers, sweet potatoes, leeks, etc. When I'm feeling lazy I take a bunch of vegetables, cut them bite-sized, throw in a roasting pan, cover with olive oil, salt, pepper, a few spices, and roast at 400 for 25-30 minutes. SUPER EZ!

2. I don't eat eggs, so I don't make them anymore, but quiches are actually pretty easy and another great way to get rid of a collection of random vegetables.

3. Veggie + Quinoa + Greens + Nuts (optional + Fruit + Dressing). There are a million ways to do it: I just made one with brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. My favorite is probably this cinnamon apple, walnut, and kale version. It has killed at school potlucks before. (Quinoa is a seed not a grain, right? Right.)

So I should have specified that I'm not so much looking for general techniques (I do know about roasting veggies) as actual recipes or at least specific combinations of ingredients.

OOPS. OK. I can do that.

1. Super Flax Green Beans

2. Orange Cauliflower

3. Cowboy Caviar

4. Kabocha and Carrot Soup

5. Coconut Chana Saag (the BOMB)

6. Fennel and Cauliflower Soup (Cauliflower Soup in general is awesome)

7. Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup (I couldn't find the original from Isa Chandra, but this one's close).

If you like any of these, PM me, and I can send you more. I picked a few from my list of recipes in Pocket ...
posted by mrgrimm at 11:36 PM on April 17, 2016

I really like roasted broccoli with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and a hearty squeeze of lemon.

Get as much broccoli as will fit into your shallowest, widest baking dish or pan, and give it a good wash. Then DRY IT THOROUGHLY (this is important). While this drying is going on, fry up some pine nuts on a low-temp pan with a dash of olive oil until they are toasted.

Oil up the oven tray and throw the broccoli in there with whatever other shit you like: garlic, maybe some fried onion, some kale, nobody cares. Drizzle with olive oil. Cook in an oven heated to 200c for maybe 20 minutes, until the broccoli starts getting roasted and a little dark on top. Toss it and throw it in for another 10-15.

Near the end, add the pine nuts you worked on earlier, and throw a whole bunch of grated parmesan or grana padano over the top of the broccoli. Give it another couple of minutes until this stuff is melty and good. Take it out of the oven and squeeze a lemon or two over the top, toss again, serve, and mouth-orgasm.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:21 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

If cabbage is a boring enough flavor for you, I have the BEST recipe ever. Cheap, easy, good.

Take a red cabbage. Bite into it. Take a bite of something else. Repeat as needed, and don't try this with onions.
posted by aniola at 5:55 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older Bug Identification help needed, possible disease...   |   Flower bouquet/arrangement delivery in San Diego —... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.