Things I’ve Learned From Vegetarians

In trying to jump-start my inspiration to eat more interesting foods, I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Web. And more often than not, I find this inspiration coming from vegetarian and vegan Web sites.

I think that’s the case because I haven’t been as adventurous with vegetables as I have been with meats. But I owe it to myself to explore more in this area, as it never hurts to eat more veggies. (Michael Pollan’s diet-building advice comes to mind: Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants. I definitely have more room in my life for eating plants.)

With this desire in my mind, here are the most inspiring pieces of advice I’ve seen on cooking vegetables:

Smoke them. I have cooked potatoes in our smoker before, but never anything else that was rooted in the ground. I saw someone mention smoking eggplant and zucchini; I wouldn’t mind trying that, corn, or cauliflower. I bet smoked mushrooms would be good, too.

Use sauces, dressings, and marinades. For me, this has meant butter or cheese sauce, but there are certainly other things I can do. The recipe that inspired me was one for garlic green beans. I love them from the Chinese restaurant; why not make them at home? Similarly, the majority of the quinoa recipes I’ve found used some sort of vinaigrette to dress up this nutty grain. Quinoa soaks up the flavor of whatever you put in it, so the options are endless.

Think international. The reason why I’m excited about this exploration is because the vegetables I’ve been serving have been steamed veggies tossed with butter substitute. I need more variety! I will look to other cultures where meat isn’t eaten, or meat is an accompaniment to the main dish. When vegetables are your primary focus, you’ve got to be well-versed in making flavorful, memorable dishes. I need more of those to accompany the meat on my plate.

Many us have been turned off to vegetables by our parents boiling the life out of them and then cajoling us to eat them unseasoned.  I was one of those people, but I’ve been fortunate to learn that there are much tastier options than blanched mixed vegetables. My goal is to continue eating more vegetable side dishes, so I will keep hunting for new ideas!

Do you embrace variety and exploration in your eating? Where do you look for inspiration? What have you learned?

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