Monday, July 21, 2008

Radish Week

Oh what can I say about radishes? You can eat them raw, you can chop them up and eat them raw on salads, you can marinate them and eat them raw...the possibilities are endless. Or actually, that's about it.

I really didn't crack whatever secret there is to liking radishes. Their texture is far to dense for something that bitter. The way I see it, if you're determined to taste bad, you might as well go down easy. The pros to radishes: they can be quite attractive? I went to a vegetable market and was pleased by the diversity and bright colors of the radish selection. I ended up buying some long white ones (I don't remember what cutesy name they have for them, so I'm going to say they were "White Dwarfs") and some pink ones (which I think were actually called "Pink Ladies"). They also had an assortment of red and purple varieties. Oh one might never run out of new and exciting radish opportunities to try! I remember my mother having a book on garnishing that told you how to make roses from radishes, so from a purely aesthetic perspective, I can see the usefulness of radishes.

I'm sure if I had done a little research I could have determined some cooked radishes worthy of trying, but at that point I had already condemned radishes as "not worth going through the effort." I ate them raw a few times (during which I determined that the altered color is just a ruse, and all radishes pretty much taste the same) and also I tried a marinated radish recipe. I screwed up the recipe from the start by not having an implement to crack the radishes (a technique which was supposed to allow them to become replete with the delicious marinate) and instead chose to just poke holes in them with a fork, reasoning that it would still soak through the holes. Clearly, this method did not work as well because while the marinate was good, once I bit into the radish it tasted exactly like a regular bitter raw radish. So the cloaking device ultimately failed.

I do have one interesting thing to say about radishes (well okay, its only tangentially related) that I unfortunately was not able to experiment with this week. A commenter from last week mentioned something called miracle fruit that when eaten subdues all your taste buds except for those that detect sweetness for a period of a couple hours. People apparently eat this and then eat sour and bitter foodstuffs to experience the different tastes in a practice called "flavor tripping." In my quest to make radishes look like candy I searched around for these miracle berries around where I live. I found a store that a message board promised sometimes had them, but was unsuccessful. I fully intend to continue my search though because I like the idea of something that supposedly makes vinegar taste like apple juice and cheap beer taste...not like cheap beer.

On a less miraculous note, I believe this will be my last post on vegetables are friends. I've enjoyed the experience, but I'm having trouble keeping it up right now. Also, I'm running out of vegetables. My final reason (under the assumption that all arguments should be threefold) is that I feel, if my waning comments are any indication of overall readership, that people can only read about my eating habits for so long without getting tired of it. Thanks to all my readers for your encouragement over the months! I feel my eating habits are at least somewhat transformed, so I am calling the experiment a success. I may be starting another blog soon about life in NYC (way to be original, right?) and if so, I'll keep you posted on it. Thanks again and happy vegetable eating to all!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet Potato Week

Okay, okay, I'm a potato convert. Well, sweet potatoes anyway. I enjoyed them enough to wonder if maybe I've been wrong about claiming that mashed potatoes feel like they're choking me all these years. That said, I don't really think I'll expand to trying to like potatoes. Sweet potatoes are chock full of beta-cartotene, vitamin C and B6 and dietary fiber. As far as I'm concerned regular potatoes are just another ordinary run of the mill starch. And I already like sweet potatoes now, so it seems silly to mess with a good thing.

Oddly the one form I didn't really enjoy as much with the sweet potato was the sweet version. I know it is often pied or mixed with brown sugar or marshmallows, but that seemed a little much to me. Then again, I wonder if maybe I'm not being a little unfair to the sugary method because I didn't really have the ingredients to make it properly (ie marshmallows, brown sugar, pie fixings) so instead I just sprinkled on some cinnamon and white sugar (one of the pre-mixed things you can buy for making cinnamon toast) and hoped for the best. Once I get set up for actual baking, I may have to give it another go.

Another thing I'm saving for later that I thought looked good was a recipe for sweet potato coconut soup. As soon as I get a blender, I will be enjoying such festive summer soups with relish!

But enough on the negative and the things I was unable to accomplish in my limited cooking space! I made some delectable sweet potato fries that were well received thanks to the valuable donation of a friend with a full size oven and an apartment with a nice roof for sweet potato fry eating. We made one batch simply with a little kosher salt, but after those turned out so well, we thought we'd mix things up with the second batch with the addition of spices. He had curry and cumin (and an assortment of spices that didn't seem to lend themselves to sweet potatoes as well). The curry were delicious and the cumin were decent, but not quite as good. Considering the ease of this particular snack food, I could definitely see doing this in the future. I should also add, that I didn't really fry them because I hate frying things. Instead, I tossed them with olive oil and threw them in the oven for a while. They were perhaps not quite as crisp, but overall still delicious and perhaps slightly more healthful.

The other delicious find of this week was some sweet potato ravioli at an Italian grocery store. I'd been contemplating trying a sweet potato gnocchi, but really why go through all that trouble when you can just buy delicious pasta. I'm not sure about the availability of sweet potato ravioli just anywhere because I for one had never seen it before, but should you in your travels ever come across some--my recommendation is that its quite worth your time. In fact, I have a whole box of them, and right now I'm wondering if its too early in the day to fire up the hot plate and start some cooking.

So yes, to sum up: well done sweet potatoes! Its nice to find that beta-carotene is available to the masses in a delicious vegetable and that those snotty carrots don't have some sort of dominion over it.

Next week: radishes!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Jicama Week

Oh, jicama. Jicama week fell victim to the "I'm more preoccupied with buying silverware for my new apartment to later consume jicama with than actually eating jicama" syndrome. Instead, this post will be mostly a conglomeration of jicama "fun facts" with only a few ideas on its use that I can vouch for first hand.

First of all, I can see why jicama is a good salad fixing. It has the crispness of a potato (which I'm not a fan of) and the sort of juiciness of a pear (which I do like). It adds a certain freshness to any salad. Normally, I am of the "vegetables that crunch should be promptly and unceremoniously souped" school of thought, but jicama has a most enjoyable texture. I found some ideas for some interesting salads which I would have liked to experiment with except that up until yesterday I had nary a pot to cook in. One such idea was a shrimp, pineapple, and jicama salad. Doesn't that just sound like summer? I could eat that on the beaches of Cancun (though for more practical purposes I would likely eat it here in my new apartment).

Jicama is apparently popular in Vietnamese food, but apparently not at those restaurants I've been to because I can't remember coming across is knowingly. Apparently, jicama, sometimes called the Mexican Potato or yam bean, is 86-90% water. Imagine that! Also, while the root is a delectable addition to summer salads and soups, the vine contains a toxin that is used to poison insects and fish. Okay, that should reach my "fun fact" quota.

As for the jicama I did eat (and enjoyed, I must say). I had some raw with chili powder and lime. Surprisingly, the lime juice took on the dominant flavor and I didn't really taste the chili powder. The telltale crunch and lime flavor was an enjoyable summer treat. I also had some cooked jicama courtesy of one of my friends from Mexico City. She grated it and cooked it with sugar and vanilla and cinnamon. There may have been other things involved in this, but I can't remember then. At any rate, it was an interesting contrast to have a sweet jicama dish which in the end resembled something sort of like apple sauce but with more texture and tasting less like apples.

I think for next week I'm going to try something that will be a personal challenge. I have always disliked potatoes above most things, and have never seen a need to change that because I get plenty of starch in my diet. However, it has come to my attention that there is a nutritional advantage to sweet potatoes or yams, so I think I will tackle those.

Next week: yams!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bean Week 2.0

This may be a little short because its week two so there's slightly less to say. Also, I'm moving yet again tomorrow (ah the transience of youth!) so everything is a bit hectic at the moment.

On the plus side, I sorted out the bean snafu of last week. If you'll read the comment my mother left, everything is illuminated. I also figured out why I was so convinced everything I was eating was a pinto bean. I'd bought a can of pinto beans to refry and through the power of suggestion assumed I must have consumed said pinto beans. I suppose this is one of the hazards of the two week system.

However, this week I did make the refried beans and they were quite good and very easy! That recipe can also be found in the comments (though you'll have to go back to artichoke week). I'm not used to working with fried pork skins and was a little wary of them at first. I think I saw some Food Network special on how they were made which scarred me from ever trying them straight. Once mixed with beans, however, I could forget all about them while enjoying their delicious taste. Obviously the problem is completely psychological, but its so hard to get the image of a conveyor belt full of whole pig skins out of your head. I don't watch the Food Network so much anymore.

Speaking of things left over from last week that I hadn't tried, I cracked open the hummus and that seems to be yet another thing to eat on a pita chip. The thing I'm noticing about all bean dips though is that while they may be okay, there are usually other dips available that are better. However, I can reasonably promise that were bean dip or hummus the only option (in some less than adequate party spread where cheese ball, salsa, spinach dip, or ranch dip were unavailable), I would indulge in the brown stuff.

I had two types of beans in restaurants. At the Black Eyed Pea, I got some red beans and rice. Not bad, but I also didn't exactly clean my plate on that one. Of course, the large portions of food at the Black Eyed Pea didn't help matters. I guess again beans failed to excite when there were better options to be had. I mean sure, they're not bad, but they're no chicken fried steak or peach cobbler. I think if I'm ever going to really eat beans, it will have to be when I am too poor to afford other foods.

I also had some beans at a BBQ restaurant. I'm at a loss to determine what kind of beans were used to make BBQ beans not because I can't remember, but because I didn't ask. They had a lot of cumin in them though, so that was pretty good.

In honor of my Mexican friends who were in town this week (as well as a testament to the fact that I'm running out of things I want to try), the vegetable of the week is jicama. I can't say how much I'll get to, as again the transition time is upon me again, but I'm going to do my best.

Next week: jicama!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bean Week 1

As the title will suggest, I have decided to go with the two week bean plan as outlined last week. My reasons for this are threefold:
1) I determined I liked beans well enough to focus on them for another week. And with such wealth of bean diversity, there is still ground left to uncover!
2) I have yet to try the refried bean recipe so highly recommended last week, and I bought all the ingredients for it--so clearly that needs to happen. I also have some uneaten hummus, and have decided chickpeas fall squarely in bean territory.
3) I'm too lazy to think up anything other than "radishes" right now, and its just hard to get psyched up about a week of radishes. You know?

I've been a little busy/distracted this week, and I've been eating beans at random intervals. For that reason, I realize I'm finding it difficult to actually remember what I ate this past week. I worry at forgetting things at such a young age. Sure now its just what bean was in that soup I had last Sunday and the name of those little things at the end of shoelaces (an occasional crossword word), but pretty soon it'll graduate to more important things--the names of pets or the password of this very blog!

Okay, piecing things together slowly...I definitely had some black beans and chicken which was decent. I haven't developed my bean senses enough (or maybe my palette in general) to really tell the difference between beans that readily. Perhaps week two of the bean feast will cure that? At any rate, I suppose black beans go on the good list.

I had some baked beans--the kind with bacon on top--with dinner the other night. That seemed pretty good too. What kind of beans are generally used to baked beans? It again like something I should know. Who knew I was so intellectually unprepared for the rigors of bean week. For all that, the baked beans were decent. I enjoyed the sweetness accompanied with the always enjoyable tell tale taste of bacon grease.

I'm beginning to feel more confident about dubbing the soup beans pinto beans. Of course if my mother (the creator of the soup--as well as most of the bean creations witnessed in this post) comments otherwise, I will print a full retraction. Then henceforth I can refer to this episode as the "pinto bean scandal." As for the potentially pinto soup, it was enjoyable. There was ham in it which lent it a nice flavor. My only complaint is that bean soups are not as easily removed of texture by blending. It seems that even in soup the maintain a certain stoic grittiness. Not unpleasant, per se, but a little damning to my "soup is a panacea for all texture issues" theory.

The other night bean dip was definitely consumed. But again I'm at a loss to determine what kind of beans might have been in it. It was dark, certainly and I instinctively want to say black beans. The dip was delicious and had there not been slightly more delicious spinach dip to its left, I might have eaten a lot more of it than I did.

This is maddening because I know I ate at least two other kinds of beans this week, and I'm at a loss even to remember the species of those I did eat. I know I had a bite of falafel (under the "chick pea as bean" rule posited earlier) yesterday, but then I already liked falafel. Hopefully, I can iron out all these issues in "bean week 2." I can seamlessly add anything from this week that I forgot and no one will have to know that they are secretly part of the somewhat less than illustrious "bean week 1." So yes, welcome to "bean week 2" the week where I learn to write things down.

Next weeek: bean week part deux!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Artichoke Week

Isn't that just lovely? Of course, artichokes don't often get to this beautiful flowering stage because they are picked that they might be sold around the country for $3 a piece. Now is this price too steep for the fun of sucking a small amount of edible "meat" from the leaves in one of the more labor intensive vegetable eating experiences I have encountered? Well, apparently not for some. For my part, the word on artichokes is: I just don't get it.

I don't understand why something costs that much when it is virtually tasteless (mostly just tastes like the butter or mayonnaise you dip it in ) and I'm convinced any slightly slimy thing dipped in butter would taste about the same. And clearly artichokes don't want to be eaten. They stab you with their razor sharp leaf spikes as you descend them into a boiling pot of water. More vicious than lobsters! Artichokes probably assumed (you know, if they were sentient beings) that they were relatively safe for all that. I mean who would look at them and think "Now that looks tasty. I'm going to need to eat one of those right now." My mother, an unabashed artichoke lover, has often mused on the first person to eat an artichoke and how they must have been exceedingly hungry to attempt it. There must have also been a great deal of trial and error involved. I can't imagine eating a leaf, discovering it was bitter, and then thinking "oh I see, you can only eat this tiny milimeter at the bottom; the rest is just compost!"

But enough of a rant on artichoke leaves, which if you couldn't gather, I was not a big fan of. The real reason people outside of my family seem to like artichokes is to buy the hearts, and just the hearts, in little jars of water or oil. The existence of hearts in artichokes has the added benefit of being fodder for many a cloying vegetable joke, the sort published in Reader's Digest, like "Why are artichokes so sweet?" "Because they're all heart!" No really, I think I've read that somewhere. And for the record, artichokes are not sweet at all.

The hearts, in addition to being much easier to eat and a source of questionable humor (yes, even I look down on anthropomorphizing from time to time) are a great deal more versatile. I tried them in salads, on a pizza, and they can also be put in pastas. They were admittedly better in this easier to eat form, but I still don't understand the reason for the extravagance. They don't really seem to taste like much, and their texture reminds me of a hard boiled egg. Eggs are so much cheaper. Overcook one, chop it up, and soak it in olive oil, and I doubt there would really be a difference.

I did try some artichoke dips because I always try to like at least one thing each week and that seemed like my only option. I got two: an artichoke garlic dip and a spinach and artichoke dip. The last one was perhaps a bit of a cheat because I already liked spinach dip, and honestly that was the predominant taste. And because I had the tasty spinach dip as a crutch, I tended to eat less and less of the straight artichoke dip, which without comparison, really wasn't that bad. See? "Not that bad"! There is some end to my artichoke bitterness.

So yes, to sum up: artichokes--just don't get the hype. I think after this week I need something a little easier. I've been thinking I should tackle beans (other than the previously friended "green beans" from many a week ago). I'd thought about dividing this category because there are so many beans to chose from, but the idea of a straight "lima bean" week wasn't particularly appealing. Still, it does seem rather difficult to cover the category in a single seven day period. I thought about maybe making it into two (possibly consecutive) weeks. Right now, my plan is to just start with week one and see how I go from there. So yes, I'm relying on the advice of my commenters on what beans to focus on! Thanks!

Next week: bean (feast) week!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Celery Week

I'll give celery one thing: it certainly lends itself well to cheap puns. Beyond that though, I honestly was looking forward to celery week. When I was younger, I was always jealous of the ants on a log crowd because it seemed like such a good snack (who doesn't want to eat something compared to insects crawling on wood?) but I could never really enjoy it. Thus ants on a log was the first thing I excitedly tried. Turns out though, celery with peanut butter and raisins on it tastes a whole lot like celery and not so much like peanut butter or raisins. This would not necessarily be a bad thing (though it would sort of defeat the purpose) if I didn't also realize I'm not that enthusiastic about celery. I see it as a much less offensive carrot. Oddly, I can't figure out what exactly bothers me about it--the taste is sort of refreshing. I think it might be the slight stringiness which accompanies the crunch.

As another vain hope of recapturing a celery-centric childhood, I wanted to do that thing where you put a stalk of celery in water with food coloring and watch it change color. I like to think this was a staple of elementary school education or at the very least the sister experiment where you use white carnations instead of celery (the color is better, but the vascular tissue is less pronounced). Its a good experiment because it combines the wonder of plant water absorption with the fact that kids love when things turn unnatural colors (something the Koolaid industry has capitalized on). Sadly, this whole last paragraph was something of a nostalgic digression because I didn't actually do the food coloring experiment. Apparently "having a constant supply of food coloring in my cabinet" is another vestiage of childhood I've left behind. As is "remembering to buy some when I'm actually at the store."

I tried celery with ranch dip which at first brought back more painful memories of carrot week, but then it really wasn't too bad. Celery lends itself far more to ranch dipping because it lacks carrot's officious density. A couple of bites and the celery is appropriately chewed without ever losing the ranch dip. I also tried celery with the cream cheese orange juice mixture mentioned in the comments. That seemed to work better still because its thicker than ranch dip. Also it offers a sweet option to vegetable consumption, something which is always appreciated.

I had intended to try a celery soup (my cure-all for texture problems) but found it more difficult a recipe to find than you would think. Apparently the Joy of Cooking does not consider such a thing worthy of publication. They do however, have a juice drink that combines watermelon and celery. It sounded rather good until I read the directions which instructed me matter-of-factly to put the watermelon and celery into my juice extractor. I am unfortunately one of those shortcut-taking modern women who doesn't own a juice extractor. So much for enjoying a delicious watermelon celery breeze on a warm summer's day.

So yes, no soup this week. I did make some dressing with celery in it to be served along side some roast chicken. It wasn't bad at all. I'm a true believer in box stuffing. Its so simple and yet always delicious. Perhaps not a summer food as much, but I enjoyed it thoroughly nevertheless. I think dicing the celery up and cooking away a little of the crunch really went a long way in this instance.

Now onto next week! I've finally been worn down...

Next week: artichoke!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Eggplant Week

Post is a little later today (and will be a little shorter) because I'm out of town right now and my internet's a little spotty. Also, I think blogger was down this morning. However, I'm making up for it with something special and never-before-seen on vegetables are friends, but I'll get to that in a moment.

I'm going to skip the usual vegetable/fruit debate because I feel like we've covered that many a vegetable/fruit ago. That aside, its interesting to note that the eggplant is botanically classified as a berry. I had a lot of fun with eggplants this week. These pendulous, purple friends are so easy to make in a variety of fun and unhealthy ways.

I found that frying eggplants allowed too great a margin of error (if the oil is not the perfect temperature, they absorb too much oil and become inedible); however, baking them in a pan of oil gave a similar effect minus the guess work! I made very thin slices of eggplant and breaded them and baked them on a pan of olive oil for about 25 minutes and ended up with delicious slices of eggplant heaven. As an added tip, I salted them and towel dried them prior to breading. I tried the baking-not-frying method both with these eggplant chips (accompanied by a blue cheese sauce) and then again with thicker slices for some eggplant parmasean. I tried this both with a Chinese eggplant and a regular eggplant and while I couldn't really tell the difference, many friends seemed to prefer the Chinese eggplant.

That's actually all the eggplant cooking I did for myself--as I mentioned, I'm out of town at present--but luckily where I am is chock full of delicious eggplant eating options. The other day I tried eggplant pizza. I'd never even seen that before! I thought it was quite serendipitous. Also, just tonight I stopped by a nearby Greek restaurant and got some moussaka. Its a layered casserole with eggplant, lamb or beef, and bechemal on top. Its impossible not to like anything with bechemal on top, but the eggplants certainly pulled their weight in this delicious dish. Had I not previously liked eggplants this week, moussaka would be reason enough to friend them.

Now for the surprise promised four paragraphs hence. I have always (since the onset of spinach week oh those many posts ago) sought to maintain my anonymity here in the blogosphere. Mostly just for a lark since almost everyone who reads this knows me and/or shares a bloodline with me (with the notable exception of the wonderful susan t!). However, I feel it is difficult to get through eggplant week without posting a picture of myself from last Halloween when I went as an eggplant. Why would I go as an eggplant when I didn't even like them or any vegetables last October, you may wonder. Mostly it was because I had purple tights and no where to wear them. So without further ado:
I wish you could get a better shot of my felt leaf cap with pipe cleaner accent--I really was quite proud of that. Also, apologies to the bear that's with me (who I know reads this faithfully) for an unauthorized picture posting.

Next week: celery!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Cauliflower Week

Much like the photo from mushroom week, this one is more a tribute to the fascinating world of vegetable diversity then, say, something I actually ate. This is actually a fractalish cauliflower, where as the kind I ate were the somewhat less mesmerizing non-fractalish kind. Still, vegetablesarefriends is nothing if not a showcase for our leafy comrades at their most beautiful.

I was a little surprised when talking to people about cauliflower to find a certain degree of anathema for them. On more than one occasion, friends told me they absolutely can't stand the stuff. Where does this latent hatred come from? After actually trying cauliflower, I can't really figure it out. It doesn't seem to have a strong enough taste to really cause a big reaction. In fact, it reminds me of a less obtrusive broccoli, and broccoli seems to receive a much less virulent reception. The only thing I can think of must be an aversion to the texture--it can be almost gritty at times, and really who wants to eat something that offers the sensation that it should be washed again and not stored in a sand box.

I tried it roasted and steamed with cheese sauce and always ran into this texture problem. It wasn't completely off putting, but I never found myself eagerly reaching for a second serving. The cheese sauce did help the most though, as cheese sauce often will. Also, when I had it roasted, I dipped it in a blend of blue cheese, sour cream, and some kind of Greek cheese, and that made it a little better. I hate to say what I'm about to, as I feel I'm like a broken record, but the obvious solution to the texture problem is to turn to souping.

I used my mother's recipe which is essentially the same as for the curry carrot soup you may remember from carrot week. For a refresher, you saute some onions with butter in a pan. When those are cooked you add a head of chopped cauliflower and cover with chicken broth (or vegetable broth). Cook until the cauliflower is soft and add curry paste. Then you pop it in a blender until you get a delicious soup without any grittiness! Easiest way to eat cauliflower, that I found.

I also made some Indian food with tomatoes and cauliflower that turned out nicely. I'll just add the link to the recipe because it came off a blog which deserves credit and because I'm too lazy to write it out:
I haven't looked at too much one the site, but it seems to have some good stuff! I wanted to make an aloo gobi, but apparently that is traditionally a combination of cauliflower and potatoes. Those of you who know me, know that I hate potatoes above most things. It seemed a little early to cure that one, so I opted for a less dry curry. Interestingly, cauliflower is apparently often used as a substitute for potatoes in low-carb diets because it has a similar consistency (a gross one) but without the starch. In fact (and this is why I'm telling you this), according to Wikipedia, cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato. Isn't that great? I could scarce think of a more enchanting name for a fake spud.

On that note, the end of cauliflower week. Thanks for reading and have a happy Memorial Day!

Next week: eggplant!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cucumber Week

I'm not really sure who Arthur Cucumber is, but apparently you can buy this "mouse mat" for the only somewhat exorbitant price of £6.50. Of course, this entails going to a website called "Violent Veg" which normally this site would not support, but which seems to be much less about vegetable scare-mongering than the name would suggest. Well now that I've appropriately advertised and assuaged all guilt about swiping this pic, I can move on to the real substance of cucumber week!

I'm certainly glad I saved cucumbers for summer (believe me, where I live May is full on summer), for they're quite a refreshing vegetable. I no longer wonder (not that I really previously did) about the phrase "cool as a cucumber." Well except as regards the switching of meanings of "cool" from the obvious temperature definition "somewhat cold" to the more abstract "calm and collected." Otherwise, its a perfectly apt simile. On the subject, this particular cliche is actually one of the more international ones, as I and a few of my friends will remember learning the phrase "koel soos 'n komkommer" in our Afrikaans class. Where was I? Oh right, the real substance of cucumber week.

I started off with some sweet and sour tuna with a blend of cucumbers and orange bell peppers on top. The tuna wasn't really sweet or sour, proving some recipes to be misleading, but the cucumbers added a refreshing crunch. Once I realized the orange bell peppers weren't carrots (which took a surprisingly long time actually), they weren't bad either.

In order to feature cucumbers more prominently I tried a mix of fresh cucumbers with some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and garlic. I was not a fan of this combination, but it may be well worth trying for those of you who like rice wine vinegar on things. I wanted to try the chili powder, lemon combination, mentioned last week, on some cucumber as well, but so far I have not gotten around to it. I still have half a cucumber left though, so I may try it today.

I tried not one but two of my old friends, the soups. Nothing says summer like a cold cucumber soup. One of the soups was mostly cucumber with some garlic and dill. The other was a bit fancier and included nuts and possibly raisins. Actually I'm not even really sure what I was eating, but it was tasty. Cucumbers are now approved the join the long list of vegetables that are so nicely souped.

Beyond soup, my two favorite cucumber experiments of the week involved the making of cucumber limeade and the purchasing of tzatziki sauce. I got the idea for cucumber limeade offline, and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The cucumber cuts the sourness of the lime nicely and makes it all the more refreshing for it. Of course, cucumber is also nice just floated in water which has the added bonus of making you feel like you're at a ritzy spa (or is that just me?). As for the tzatziki, I imagine its supposed to go on some delicious shawarma or gyros, but I found it could be just fine as a dipping sauce for plain pitas. Thank you, random Middle Eastern market near my house.

That about wraps up cucumber week. As for next week, I've been getting a lot of outside pressure to tackle artichokes, but I'm resisting it for now. Do I really need to develop a taste for something so extravagant? And what's with only being able to eat part of the leaves? Anyway, I'm going a different way instead.

Next week: cauliflower!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Announcement of Cucumber Week

This is the much ballyhooed (well okay, barely ballyhooed) interim post that I promised a few weeks ago. Its been a hectic few weeks, but I should be back up and running soon. I haven't tried too much crazy vegetable goodness, but I have been keeping up with previously friended vegetables. I've been souping veggies like mad trying to get them out of my refrigerator.

In the world of fried vegetables, I discovered that ordering vegetable tempura is a good idea but only in small amounts. How soon one becomes over tempura-ed! It does make for a fun game of "try to guess what vegetable is under the fried bit." Broccoli flowerlets are pretty easy to guess, but yams and squashes require biting into and, in some cases, chewing for a bit before identity can really be verified. At the festival last weekend I was able to tried some fried green tomatoes which were delicious. There's something I'll miss about living in the South. Unfortunately, they didn't have fried okra at the festival as I'd assumed, but I did have some this morning at brunch. (Apparently fried okra is a brunch food?) Not bad, though I feel I'd be wary of okra in other contexts.

Now for the excitement of the coming week. I had some cucumber in a salad at a dinner party last week, and it seemed innocuous enough. Thus I thought I'd go ahead and make the announcement that cucumber week cometh in case anyone has any good recipes. Hopefully, I didn't lose too many readers with the hiatus!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pea Week

Welcome, friends of vegetables, to pea week. Not so challenging a challenge really as these are fairly innocuous little buggers. While I can't say I would ever sit down for a nice bowl of straight peas--they do add a nice complement to many a dish. And there's something comforting about these friendly little orbicular greens, especially when paired with carrots (which I still find kind of gross, but we're mostly talking aesthetics here).

Pea week was something of a wash in terms of actual cooking. I'm growing lazy and preoccupied with other things lately, so many of my pea purchases were ready made. Case in point, I had fully planned to make a chicken pot pie. I grew up making chicken pot pies for my family; however, I would always make myself a mini personal pot pie minus the mixed vegetables. I know, I know, was I ever so young? Making a chicken pot pie with peas, carrots, and green beans (the typical Birds Eye blend), seemed like a symbol of my changing habits. But then instead, I just bought a Marie Calendars individual pie. Marie does a decent job, and the vegetables suit the dish well. Not only was this much easier, but I wasn't saddled with my usual slew of left overs. No one wants to eat chicken pot pie for five days straight.

The same can be said for making an entire pot of soup. So instead I again copped out and went the root of Campbell's split pea soup. I can definitely recommend this product; its a good hearty soup with chunks of ham in it and plenty of peas. There was also a nice smoky flavor! Well souped, Campbell's, well souped. Peas certainly do speak to a certain level of comfort--or at least they appear in a lot of foods I would consider "comforting". While I may always prefer frozen waffles or tomato soup as my comfort foods of choice, I see the appeal of peas in that respect. I think it might be because they're so small. It would be nigh impossible (once your esophagus is larger than an infant's) to choke on a pea, and how comforting is that?

I tried some snow peas though unfortunately I never got around to a proper stir fry. I ate them raw and dipped in things I found in my refrigerator. I realize that sentence makes me sound a little more intrepid and disgusting than I had intended it to. To rephrase: I ate them raw and dipped in leftover salad dressings that I needed to get rid of. Overall, not bad.

As this last paragraph my suggest, I'm currently in the process of trying to clean out my fridge. To that end, my last pea encounter was a mostly just my combining things I'm trying to get rid of. I steamed some peas (actually they steamed themselves in the bag in my microwave--isn't technology swell?) and threw in a sauce made from the blue cheese crumbles that I've been meaning to eat for a week now and then mixed that with the bow tie pasta that I can't even remember buying. Surprisingly yummy.

I'm afraid vegetables are friends may be going on a short hiatus for the next two weeks. I'm in the process of moving out of my apartment, and I'm trying not to buy more food, especially perishables. If there's one thing I've learned in these last few months, its that buying vegetables seems to necessitate buying all sorts of other things to eat them with. Thus, I'm not interested in starting a new vegetable which wouldn't really get the attention it deserves right now. I'd considered doing okra because at the end of this week because I'm going to a local festival at which I know there will be fried okra; however, I'm not planning to eat okra the rest of the week or in any other fashion ever, so I'm pretty sure that won't count. I may post next week on all fried vegetables I encounter this weekend--fried green tomatoes, fried okra, etc.--but I'll wait and see if I can actually make that interesting.

Another option is to enlist the advice of my readers on how to dispose of the vegetables I currently have in creative ways. I still have steamed peas, a few snow peas, a can of corn, carrots, and an onion. I also have a surplus of most staples, a large quantity of apple cider vinegar, many salad dressings, and a collection of cheeses. Any thoughts?

Next week: who knows?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Asparagus Week

Artful, no? I think I remember reading somewhere that white asparagus is just regular asparagus that was kept from sunlight. Thinking over it though, I'm not sure how that could be true because then how would the plant grow at all? I guess it could just be artificial light which for some reason inhibits the chlorophyll while still providing the asparagus much needed nutrients. But if that's true, does that mean we could make anything white by keeping it from sunlight? Could albino broccoli happen? Any alert science minded readers are invited to join this debate. Then again, if that first "fact" is wrong, then I guess its all a moot point.

Moving on...asparagus week had its ups and downs with a bit more emphasis on the downs. I think I'll include more (as in more than none) recipes this week because it has come to my attention I am not alone in not liking asparagus and perhaps I'll seek to change that. Of course, these recipe recommendations would be more compelling if I could in good conscience endorse their output, but I encourage non-asparagus likers to give it a go nevertheless. My family has always been a fan of the tomato asparagus salad which my mother mentioned in the comments. The actual list of ingredients for that is as follows:
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Mix that together and you have what everyone in my family will tell you is a tasty salad. I thought then that I might enjoy it as well, but I had forgotten that my family members are unabashed asparagus likers all. They even eat it straight! Boiled, no less! So yes, my consensus on the asparagus salad is that you may like it, but I fear that liking asparagus already may be a prerequisite.

I wanted to experiment with different methods of cooking asparagus, but was limited by not having a grill. I did learn that broiling in the oven with some olive oil and salt is superior to boiling. Actually, I still wasn't too fond of it even after broiling, but my friend ate the stalks like candy. In a perfect world, I would try my hand at frying asparagus, but I feel this may be one of those things that only works well in restaurants.

The only truly successful venture was some cream of asparagus soup I made which was actually pretty delicious. So far it seems soups are the only mode of vegetable consumption to never let me down. This gives me hope that should I ever lose all my teeth, I will be able to take it in stride. I'll try to recreate the recipe, but as I have a tendency when cooking to just throw things in without measuring, it may be a little coarse. The short hand for this recipe would be: take asparagus and add copious amounts of butter and cream until a soup is formed. But to break it down further: First, I cut up the some fresh asparagus into 1 inch pieces and boiled them in enough vegetable broth to cover them, but not really that much. In another pan, I melted some butter and then added some flour as a thickener, followed by some (maybe a quarter cup?) of cream and some (a cup?--wow, this is the most useless recipe ever) more broth and cooked that until thickened. Once the asparagus was soft, I combined the two mixtures and let it cook a little longer with a little salt (I also may have added pepper, but its all a little hazy now). Then, because, I don't like chunks of gross things in my soup, I pureed the whole mixture. I garnished with a little Parmesan cheese. So yeah, if anyone is feeling intrepid and wants to try this based on my shakey description--I can say that I fully recommend this. Coming from a general disliker of asparagus, I feel this endorsement should carry some weight.

I'm sorry I can't offer more/better recipes. My readers are so good about offering reliably good fare, but I seldom give back to the vegetable liking community. Next week, I shall endeavor to write something down if I feel like it may turn out to be delicious.

Next week: peas!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Corn Week

This will be a redemptive post. I finally am back on the vegetable wagon, and feel that I fully gave this week's vegetable a proper run. Busy or not, there's no reason not to find time for consistent vegetable preparation and consumption. So this week I had some fun with corn. Its really a very versatile vegetable. You can eat it, use it as a grain, make mazes from it (surely nothing surpasses the entertainment potential of corn stocks/husks), and there are rumors that it might be the next big alternative energy source. Yep, its a fine time to be corn in America.

I started the week with some corn on the cob. I never really understood just how troublesome it is to eat corn off the cob. Is there a strategy that doesn't seem to jam it straight into your gums? Certainly, a post-cob-snacking flossing was in order. Then again, I had some cooked corn off the cob, and it just didn't seem as good by itself or even with butter. Perhaps there's something to having to work for your food.

I tried a couple experiments with sweet corn things, which seemed like a good idea, but was not ultimately that successful. I operated under the syllogism that 1) I like sweet things, and 2) I aim to like corn, so 3) sweet corn dishes will be delicious. I had some corn fritters (which also fit the so often true premise that 4) things are better fried), but found them lacking. I also made some sweet corn muffins using both corn meal and canned corn (though one friend insisted it tasted more like pineapple). These were a mistake from the start. Not only did they start a small fire in my oven (which, okay, I can't entirely blame the corn muffins for) but they ended up soggy and squished. Actually, this again might not be the corn muffins fault, as potentially the reason they were soggy and squished is because I tried to take them on a trip and left them in the trunk of my car under a heavy bag prior to consuming them. Nevertheless, the fact remains that no one I offered them to would eat more than a bite and even the ducks we tried to feed them to were unimpressed.

But on to more successful ventures! I made a pretty decent corn chowder during the week. I have a soft spot for things that can be chowdered, and corn seems to work nicely in this capacity. I also made a pretty good corn salad. Basically it was fresh corn cut off the cob mixed with some oil, apple cider vinegar, a little salt and pepper, and a lot of chopped fresh basil. It was excellent cold, and I feel would be a good, refreshing picnic food. After all, the picnic season is upon us, for those who enjoy the simple pleasure of eating outside.

I'm a little wary of next week's vegetable, but after finding corn to be a little easy, I think I may be ready for a challenge of sorts.

Next week: asparagus!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cabbage Week

First of all, I should apologize for not giving the promised update on avocado week. For all you faithful readers who were diligently checking back to see if you really can make viable ice cream from an avocado--I guess I've been uncovered as both a dirty rotten liar and a neglectful blogger. Again, apologies all around. Unfortunately, that avocado was forgotten due to my being busy this week. I'm a little worried that my life may be adversely affecting my commitment to vegetables.

Unfortunately, this will likely be a short one as I'm a little short on time this week as well; however, I'll try to get all the cabbage-y goodness into the post nevertheless. To that end, check out this monstrosity: Certainly, cabbage to the extreme. My cabbage eating was a little more contained. I got the joy of quarantining myself to work on my thesis and eating nothing but cabbage! I felt rather like an Irish peasant at times, but nevertheless there were high moments.

I thought the Reuben was pretty tasty (so tasty that I not only made more than one, but offered them to friends). I opted to go with the grilled-cheese-butter method because I really should test this lithe young metabolism while I have it. Unfortunately, while the sandwich was good, I think my least favorite part was probably the sauerkraut. I tried a bit of it on its own for comparison and decided its just not for me. Clearly, my German roots are failing me. But I guess its good to know that with enough corn beef and dressing, the taste can be suitably down-played.

Raw cabbage was a little better. I made a makeshift salad and was going to get really plucky and attempt a slaw, but was thwarted by not having vinegar. I really should plan my menu before going to the store at the beginning of the week because I hate having to go for just one thing. Its just a waste of gas really. At any rate, slaws aside, I made a cabbage soup which wasn't too bad. Not my favorite thing to soup, but still okay. I found myself missing the texture of the cabbage a little. Perhaps I'm growing inured to vegetable texture now? We'll call that progress.

Next week: corn!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Avocado Week

Did you know you can get this on a shirt? Exciting news, I know. To answer the question posed by the shirt, I would have to say that avocados are friends (though, as a side note, vegetablesarefoes could be a fun counter blog to this one). Of course some readers may consider this question of avocado allegiance to be merely a distraction from the bigger question--avocado: fruit or vegetable? Yep, taxonomy got me again. Wikipedia isn't as helpful at debunking this one, so I'm going to just go ahead and use my authority as a blogger to dub them "vegetable enough."

But since I'm on Wikipedia, it seems impossible not to share a few fun facts of avocado etymology. Did you know that the avocado, sometimes called the alligator pear, is dervived from the Aztec word ahuacatl, meaning "testicle, because of its shape? Also interesting: "Historically avocados had a long-standing stigma as a sexual stimulant and were not purchased or consumed by any person wishing to preserve a chaste image." Luckily times have changed, and I received no great loss of virtue by buying avocados in bulk.

My creativity again suffered this week and I mostly relied on the avocado staple guacamole. I tried the recipe mentioned in the comments and it was delicious. Thanks again, Susan T! At that time I had no guac frame of reference, so I didn't know if the secret ingredient had a big impact. However, later in the week I tried some at a restaurant, and I will say that I thought mine was better. Also, the restaurant's fare was too chunky. With such a smooth texture, avocados deserve to be well blended.

I tried the avocado on a sandwich as well, and according to one friend of vegetablesarefriends, it also goes well on pizza. Unfortunately, my pizza making of the week involved blue cheese, and I made the executive decision that the two flavors might not meld well. I remember seeing on Top Chef once (and really I see no reason to doubt the wisdom of reality tv) that avocado could be used in ice cream to give it the proper texture with perhaps less cream. I fully intended to try this even though I don't have an ice cream maker, but somehow time got away from me. Isn't that always the way of it though? I still have one avocado, so I'll try to give it a go tonight. Check back for updates!

Next week: cabbage!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lettuce Week

I'm going to go ahead and start off by saying that isn't me in the picture. Seriously, if I were to dress up like a head of lettuce, I would look absolutely nothing like this person. That said, I really admire their commitment to whatever occasion necessitated sticking their head through not only a wicker basket (surely that's itchy!) but a table and festive Hawaiian cloth.

Perhaps it seems I am stalling by focusing on this picture instead of talking about lettuce as is truly the point of this post. Or maybe it doesn't seem like I'm stalling to anyone but me, but rest assured: that's what I'm doing. Its not that lettuce week went badly because lettuce isn't perfectly enjoyable--its more just that I didn't put the appropriate vegetablesarefriends effort into it. I was so looking forward to lettuce after my first run in with salad greens (surely you all remember spinach week!), but I may have dropped the ball on this one.

I think the problem may have stemmed from the fact that lettuce is not a stand alone vegetable. I knew this going in, but somehow the thought didn't stay with me while I was at the grocery store doing my weekly veggie shop. Consequently, I only bought lettuce (specifically some mixed Italian greens). It wasn't until I was home and excitedly ready to construct my first salad that I realized I had nothing to eat with it. Don't get me wrong; I improvised to some extent, but I'm just not sure I ate enough salad to really be proud of it. Not since bell pepper week has there been so poor a showing of any vegetable (and yes, I realize this would be a more dramatic statement if I had more than eight posts)!

Nevertheless, and acknowledging first and foremost that this is based on limited research, I have come to some conclusions based on the salad I did eat. First: salad is something that I will never order in a restaurant on its own, but would definitely eat if it came with my chosen main course. I've also compiled a list of things that go well in salad:

Things that complement lettuce:
cheese (particularly feta and blue cheese. yum!)
certain other past-friended vegetables (tomatoes are allowable as are mushrooms)
oils and dressings

Things that do not complement lettuce:
carrots (yep, still not a fan)

I really wanted to try a lettuce wrap and a better selection of different types of lettuce, not to mention some more exotic salads. Man, this whole post is really just an exercise in shame. I think I'll try to keep eating salads with lunch for a while, at least until I clear my conscience. I may even try this on a week in the future when I'm not so busy with other things. Speaking of the future, I believe the winner for next week will be avocado. Bring on the the guacamole recipes!

Next week: avocado!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mushroom Week

How were your respective weeks, readers? Mine was pretty good, but then how could it not be on the week that I willingly introduced consuming fungus into my life. Really mushrooms are pretty unobtrusive, but I found that it takes some skill to avoid a less than savory, at times termed "slimy," texture.

I will say I enjoy weeks that allow me to experiment with different types (yet another reason to reminisce about squash week), and so I began mushroom week with the purchasing of three different mushroom sorts: Shitake, Cremini (young Portabellas), and the typical white kind that they sell in those blue foam tubs. With such a fine diversity of mushrooms (and at such a diversity of prices), I thought that surely there would be a great difference in taste. Unfortunately, as it turns out, my palette is not yet refined enough in the world of mushrooms to detect that difference.

I started with the Shitakes, though because they cost $8 a pound I only had a small amount. I made a Shitake-crusted chicken, and eagerly awaited the delicious subtlety of flavor that would no doubt accompany high-end fungi. But in the end the taste was just a little too subtle; to me it just tasted like chicken, and my attempts to feature the 'shrooms were mostly wasted. As a plus, I really don't think it would be that difficult to pass off something as "Shitake-crusted" and then just use the regular cheap mushrooms, depending, of course, on your ethical standards and willingness to lie to dinner guests.

I had some mushroom crepes in a restaurant, but, and I realize this goes against what I said during squash week about restaurant veggies being superior--I found they were rather slimy. The crepes were still good, and the mushrooms edible, but the texture was not my favorite. The best way to eat mushrooms then is to disguise the sliminess by surrounding it with a more appealing sliminess, such as cheese. To that end, the mushroom pizza I made later that day was definitely a step up.

For the Creminis, I wanted to do something a bit special. My friend, a seasoned mushroom connoisseur, and I stuffed some mushroom caps with pesto and put them in the oven with a dash of Parmesan. They came out quite well, though I will admit to refusing seconds. I would definitely try one at a party though. Perhaps I'd even make them for a party! "What's a party without mushrooms!" is such a common phrase these days, after all.

Yesterday, I had some cream of mushroom soup, which was as good as any soup. I'm begining to see that soups are the best ways to deal with vegetables (particularly those that suffer from issues of texture). On the one hand, this is an easy solution; on the other hand, while I like soup, I do also really like chewing things. I'll keep working on it.

Here's a picture of some mushrooms I didn't try:Isn't bio-diversity great?

I think for next week I'll go back to basics with some greens, as I believe I now have the assemblages of a pretty decent salad. Anyone have any exotic salad recipes to share? Speaking of reader participation: does anyone have thoughts on a vegetable for next week? I'm getting bored of thinking of them, and I don't think I'm ready to resort to asparagus just yet. Anyway, your continued readership and feedback is appreciated.

Next week: lettuce!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Squash Week

I love this picture because it means that someone, somewhere saw the artfulness of lovingly placing squash in front of a beach scene. A friendly vegetable gesture if ever there was one. But do these gourds deserve the pampering? After squash week, I must heartily accede that they do.

Squash week began with the harried purchasing of every kind of squash I could get my hands on, which, in my neighborhood Krogers, meant: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash. I'll admit, I passed on buying a zucchini, but that was an oversight I corrected later in the week. Even buying squash is kind of fun; they're just so large and comical. And then after having a squash tower in my fruit bowl for a few days, I seriously considered making them some sort of cornucopia to dramatically spill forth from. They're just so friendly, squash are.

But even on a blog that shamelessly anthropomorphizes vegetables, I feel I should leave the friendliness quality for a moment, and focus on taste. There's much do be done with squash. I began the squash journey with the spaghetti squash because I was endlessly intrigued after a friend told me it could be used as a substitute for actual pasta. I am a pasta lover to the core, and was unsure as to how what appeared to be an unremarkable squash could possibly transform into noodles. And yet, lo and behold, it did. Once plied lengthwise with a fork, the squash meat took the shape of a mid-size pasta (perhaps linguini, with spaghetti being a bit of a misnomer). So excited I was by the illusion, that I even ate it with pasta sauce. On tasting, the illusion was somewhat shattered as the consistency was not like pasta. This may have something to do with under-cooking the squash (and I've noticed under-cooking things seems to be a theme on this blog), or it may have to do with the fact that I was eating squash and expecting it to taste exactly like gluten. Nevertheless, I'd eat spaghetti squash again just for the fun of scraping pasta from the hull of a gourd.

Next, I tackled my friend the acorn squash. The easiest thing to do was to soup that sucker. I found a recipe online for a sweet soup with apples and acorn squash. It sort of reminded me of a pie filling, but it did give me a chance to use nutmeg, which I fear has become the most underused spice on my rack. It was tasty, but I think I just find sweet soups disorienting. That's why when I turned to the butternut squash, I chose to make a savory soup. Actually, it would be more fair to say "my mother" chose to make a savory soup. I'm visiting my parents this week, and my mother (a proud supporter of vegetablesarefriends) was kind enough to make me soup from her own, long-standing squash soup recipe. But then, perhaps that's the only action you can take when someone brings you a butternut squash via an eight-hour drive.

The remainder of the butternut that was un-souped, I put some butter and sugar on. This has been suggested to me by numerous sources, and even the sticker on the butternut squash advised on how it could be done. Vegetables themselves do not usually come with recipes attached, so I felt this was worth attending to. It tasted a lot more like eating butter and sugar and a lot less like eating vegetables, which presumably is the point.

My final squash encounter was out to dinner. I had some fried zucchini at an Italian restaurant, and it was absolutely delicious. I really need to eat vegetables out more often, because they can do things that I just plain can't with my limited cooking space and ability. Plus if I were to make fried zucchini on my own, I would once again be confronted with the dilemma of whether or not eating vegetables is still a healthful practice when they are breaded and fried in oil. This seems to be a controversy that surfaces often on this site. Perhaps controversy is the wrong word, but I do manage to be continually surprised by what is no doubt painfully obvious to well-established eaters of vegetables: vegetables, like all things, taste better when made with fats. Not much of an epiphany, but good enough for vegetablesarefriends.

Next week (at my mother's suggestion): mushrooms!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Green Bean Week

Greetings, readers! Yet another fine week has transpired, and a hell of a week it was. For a number of non-vegetable related reasons, my attention was taken from green beans during the week. Really my only during-the-week encounter with them was at lunch in the dining hall, which (as you may well imagine) was only so-so. Never fear, I made up for it by gorging myself on green beans over the weekend. And what a bean feast it was!

The only recipe most people associate with green beans (and consequently the only recipe most people offered me) is the traditional Thanksgiving casserole, so I started with that. I'll admit I was wary at first--it involved mushroom soup and fried onions, both as of yet un-friended. However, my worry was unfounded, and it turns out that people are on to something with green bean casserole. I no longer wonder why its a Thanksgiving staple. Fact, I wonder why people don't seem to eat it on just an average Tuesday. But, and I hate to say this on green bean week, its really not the legumes that make this casserole. Allow me a minute to rhapsodize on the show-stealing French's french fried onions. I guess its just another testament to the fact that anything bad for you probably tastes delicious, but man alive are those things good! I almost made it onion week this week in their honor, but ultimately decided to save that for when I've given up interpersonal relationships.

Leaving casserole for a minute, I also made "green bean almondine" which is my short hand for "steamed green beans tossed with hastily sauteed blanched almonds." From this I learned that steaming vegetables in the microwave would be easier if I had some sort of covered microwaveable dish, and that, in fact, a bowl with a plate precariously balanced on top of it is not the most efficient cooking system.

I also made a green bean tomato salad, the recipe for which I found online. I was planning on posting said recipe, only I can't say I entirely recommend this salad. It ended up more like a sauce than a salad, and when I added sour cream (per the recipe) it looked like something regurgitated. Aesthetics aside, it was completely edible, but still nothing I would add to my culinary repertoire.

I was going to take pictures of some of my green bean creations because 1) I've grown accustomed to putting pictures on each post and a google image search for "green beans" reveals nothing remotely funny, sexy, or in any other way interesting, and 2) It hardly seems a danger to anonymity, because really if you can recognize me by my mismatched kitchen ware, you've probably already breached my security. However, I did not take any picture and sadly will be relying on the (less than satisfactory) bounty of google images because 1) I can't find my camera cord, and 2) I just now though of the picture taking thing, and all my culinary creations are long since digested. At any rate, enjoy this lackluster picture of a boy who has yet to be seduced by green beans:

Hang in there, kid; I was you once. (Just so we're extra clear: this isn't a picture of me.)

Next week: various squashes!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Broccoli Week

Thanks for your patience! Everything is back up and normal now. And for all that, I am calling broccoli week a resounding success!

The first thing I learned about broccoli, on day one of the week, was that it tends to make me gag a little (just a little though). Why then do I call broccoli week a success? Well, because, by the end of the week, I determined ways to make broccoli entirely edible. I've effectively transformed something un-liked to something reasonably tolerated. I'm slowly but surely gaining dominion over my taste buds. This, my friends, is what vegetablesarefriends is all about!

Helping broccoli's cause was the fact that the cafeteria does not know how to cook it at all. My first encounters with the substance (as in the hands of mass cooking it ceases to be what I can in good conscience term a "vegetable") were there, and as such I started the week with very low expectations. The broccoli cheese soup was viscous and far closer to a solid than any soup should feel comfortable being. My new rule on cafeteria soups is that if my spoon can rest on the skim on top for five minutes without sinking, I should probably avoid it. I also tried the cafeteria's steamed, seasoned broccoli with equally off-putting results. I was despondent, but luckily had the sage words of my broccoli-eating friends to assure me that broccoli in the world outside the cafeteria is significantly more palatable.

So began the transformation! I made the casserole suggested in the comments, and it was well received. At this point, I was still not entirely won over to broccoli yet, but I did find it went down much easier. I also made some broccoli cornbread, which was again tasty. Cheese and broccoli, as everyone kept saying, do go well together. I had intended to make a broccoli recipe I saw in the NY Times food section earlier in the week, but couldn't get all of the ingredients. But really, I feel like the intent alone should count for something.

I tried steamed broccoli again and outside the cafeteria and it was light years ahead of what I had previously consumed. I also gave raw broccoli a go, which, given the right dip, wasn't bad at all either. In fact, I think I prefer it possibly to cooked stuff. Next time I'm at a party or reception with a veggie tray and dip, I shall experiment further.

So ends another fun, veggie-filled week. Perhaps I'll buy some more broccoli soon and blend it with bell peppers for a mean stir fry! But for now, I'm looking to the future:

Next week: green beans!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bell Pepper Week

Bell pepper week ended on a sour note. Though this has little to do with bell peppers themselves and everything to do with my developing a stomach virus that prevents me from keeping down any food item, bell peppers notwithstanding. Its actually kind of fortuitous that I had been about to grill some peppers on my friend's George Foreman when I realized I felt kind of bad and declined. Otherwise bell peppers might have gone the way of any food that is the last thing you eat before mass vomiting ensues-- blackballed from one's diet for years! As it is, I probably won't be eating cheese dip for a very long time.

Also, luckily, because I am too sick to go to class or (apparently) to get more than 20 minutes of sleep together, I have plenty of time to update this blog with the fond memories of when I could eat. I'll keep this short regardless though because I doubt I'll be making much sense right now anyway. In the interest of brevity then, here's a list of my bell pepper conquests of the last week
  • bell pepper omelet
  • bell peppers on pizza
  • fajitas (definitely the best of the lot--those suckers are pretty good grilled)
  • raw bell pepper
  • bell pepper rings (not successful at all)
That's about all I can remember at present, but I'm pretty sure I ate more than that. Today would be the start of broccoli week, but for obvious reasons I am going to postpone it until whatever I have subsides. I really, really hope that's tomorrow. At any rate, broccoli week's post might come a little late, or else I might just decide to shorten it and try to get all the broccoli goodness in a shorter time frame.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Carrot Week

Carrots do not taste good. There is no convincing me otherwise. Anyone who observed my face contorted in discontent while eating a carrot stick can attest to the futility of the argument. However, friends of vegetablesarefriends, do not despair! While I stand by the above fact, I also must include this hopeful addendum: carrots (thankfully) are easily camouflaged. After I initially discovered that despite their jolly color and excellent supply of vitamin A, carrots are entirely unpalatable, I spent the rest of the week looking for the best ways to disguise them, and came up with some that work well and some that don't.

For starters, there was ranch dip. Ranch dip is very tasty, and initially tasty enough so as to hide the carrot. The problem comes in when the liquidy ranch dip dissolves long before the dense-as-lead carrot, leaving behind the offending taste. I tried speed chewing the carrot in a race to beat the swallowing of the ranch dip, but in the end, it was a pointless pursuit. I also tried just eating smaller bites of carrot and reapplying ranch dip liberally, but this too proved silly as it begin to seem more efficient and enjoyable (though hardly as healthful) to just dispense with carrots all together and eat the ranch dip with a spoon.

Clearly, stronger measures were needed. Enter: curry. A friend and I made a chicken curry as I normally would, but mixed things up a little by adding carrots. The carrots were a little underdone, but had there not been that mild crunch (which could be eliminated as I grow more comfortable with proper carrot cooking times), I don't believe I would have noticed them at all. This same principle proved true with the curry carrot soup I tried a few days later (thanks to terryt for recipe...and phone call to talk me through said recipe!). Once curried and souped, the carrots lose all power to offend and yield their healthful benefits without a fight. Mmm, love that beta-carotene!

I also made the carrot salad mentioned in the comments (thanks susan!). I was worried at first that the peach yogurt would not be strong enough to do curry's job, but I now stand corrected. The salad was excellent and not at all tasting of carrots. Or perhaps a little tasting of carrots, but then then the yogurt brought out the sweetness that people keep insisting that carrots have, and the effect was even pleasant.

I wanted to test my night vision at the end of the week because I seem to remember learning in health class, though this may not in fact be backed by science, that carrots help with that. Unfortunately, the friend who I suggested go tramping through some dark woods with me, brought up the point that as I hadn't made any test of my vision prior to beginning carrot week, I really have no frame of reference. I can see the logic to this, but for the record, and without conducting any formal test, I'm going to go ahead and say I can see better at night.

As I final reflection on carrot week, check out this cuteness:
One final thing: an alert reader (who is, in fact, my mother) has suggested that my readers might be interested in knowing of my upkeep of past vegetables of the week. To that end, I can say that I am doing well with spinach and in fact had some spinach for lunch this very day! I continue my enjoyment of tomato soup, and bought more carrots to use with the rest of my curry paste.

Next week: bell peppers!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tomato Week

Well, friendly readers, another week, another vegetable. Of course, tomato week brought with it the usual slew of controversy, which I will address first and foremost. Namely: is it appropriate to include tomatoes on vegetablesarefriends or is this particular friend, in fact, a fruit? My research on the subject (by which I mean wikipedia) led me to this helpful information:

Botanically, a tomato is the ovary
, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant, a fruit or, more precisely, a berry. However, the tomato is not as sweet as those foodstuffs usually called fruits and, from a culinary standpoint, it is typically served as part of a salad or main course of a meal, as are vegetables, rather than at dessert, as are fruits. The term "vegetable" has no botanical meaning and is purely a culinary term.

Additionally, the Supreme Court (for those readers who prefer that authority) ruled on the matter in 1893, stating that for tariff purposes, the tomato would be considered a vegetable. However, as I imagine the bulk of my readers are Arkansans, you should know that our fair and unbiased state has chosen to avoid all controversy by declaring the "South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato" to be both the state fruit and the state vegetable. On an unrelated and fairly uninteresting note, the state soil of Arkansas is Stuttgart.

I hope you will consider this adequate proof of the integrity of allowing the tomato to slip in. As a final argument (and I promise to get off wikipedia after this one last fun fact) the specific name of the tomato translates to "wolf-peach" and how awesome is that? So yes, without further ado...tomato week:

I'm afraid that tomato week did not go quite as successfully as spinach week. Which is not to say that I ate fewer tomatoes, but that at times my heart just wasn't in it. It started off well enough with a kind donation to the cause of tomato herb bread. As appreciation of this donation, I feel some free advertising is in order: if you live in Little Rock, you should definitely trot down to Old Stone Mill Bread (yum!). I also made some tomato sauce the first day and that went rather excellently. I then made some salsa that went somewhat less so. It seems that simply chopping up a tomato and calling it salsa leaves you with an end product that tastes much more like chopped tomato and less like salsa.

I ate a good deal of tomato soup throughout the week, but this was a bit cheating because I already liked tomato soup. It was nice to have the solace that even if I don't come to like raw tomatoes, at least I can still get my tomato fix through warm liquidy tomato soup goodness. At some point this weekend I made some bruschetta, which also came out very well. Unfortunately, we didn't allow enough time to eat it after painstakingly making it, and had to take it on the road. While not the most travel-friendly food, it was so delicious that one friend had no problem scooping up fallen bruschetta from the floor of the car. Luckily, not my vehicle, lest I be remembering tomato week longer that I'd like.

The final test was eating a slice of raw tomato (with some salt and pepper) which was just plain not that good. Of course, in defense of the wolf peach, I realize they are woefully out of season and I'm probably eating more ethylene than tomato at this point, so I promise to give them another chance come summer. Until then, I think soup and tomato sauce will have to tide me over.

Next week: carrots!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spinach Week

So spinach week happened. Overall, impressions are favorable. I’m not going to say I didn’t have set backs, but I feel I learned a lot about myself and my relationship to spinach in the past seven days.

I began the week by learning to make a proper spinach dip. I’ll be honest, and say my first attempt was something of a failure. It had the dip consistency, sure, but I had clearly not added enough spinach. Luckily, as I had a surplus of pita chips, I steeled myself, supplemented my fresh spinach supply with some frozen chopped spinach, and tried again. Results were, by all accounts, yummy.

While spinach dip was a success, I had to pause and wonder if the healthy benefits of the iron rich spinach weren’t perhaps somewhat negated by the artery clogging cream cheese (or mayo in some recipes). This led to more serious measures, and I decided to get back to basics with a nice spinach salad. Or at least what I would call a spinach salad, but was later informed was really just a plate of raw spinach. My roommate came in half way through to find me watching Air Force One and grimacing over my lunch. She pointed out that people generally eat things with spinach. Lesson learned! But while not especially palatable on its own, I find spinach does work nicely with most other things. Perhaps I’ll experiment with dressings as I get more comfortable with spinach.

The need for spinach in other contexts inevitably led to a spinach calzone and a spinach quiche. The former I tried only a bite of, but seemed, as one of my friends said, to be a “spinach dream.” The latter I made myself tonight, and was not too shabby for not following a recipe. With such varied possibilities, I see no problem integrating spinach into my regular diet.

That about wraps up spinach week. I’d like to post pictures of me proving my new found love of spinach pictorially; however, when vegetablesarefriends takes off and becomes the new “it” blog, I do want to maintain some anonymity. To that end, please accept this reasonable facsimile:

Next week: Tomatoes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In the Beginning

I am 22 and have the eating habits of a five-year-old. That's right, I don't eat vegetables. This is the painful confession I so often have to make when an observant acquaintance notes that I am avoiding my bean sprouts or politely refuse salad. Beyond that, I have never found my pickiness especially crippling, but nevertheless I have decided to finally give vegetables another go. Perhaps, I've judged them unfairly, after all.

To this end, I have a grand plan wherein I will introduce a new vegetable into my diet each week. I can consume it in any way I like (also a chance to try out some creative recipes!), but must consume all of it throughout the week. I haven't worked out exactly how much I should buy, but I suppose that will naturally sort itself out. I'm keeping a blog at the suggestion of my friend Barbora, but hopefully also for the benefit of all seeking personal betterment. Comments of encouragement or recipe suggestions are encouraged! Hopefully I'll update this weekly with my thoughts on the past week's vegetable.

For the first week I am starting with spinach. I've always thought spinach dip seemed like a good idea, and no longer will I miss out on it in casual party settings! Let the vegetable liking begin!