It may seem odd that a gardener who has been a vegetarian for decades didn’t like to cook vegetables. But that was me. I love growing plants and, as a Taurus born on Earth Day, was born with a couple of green thumbs; but when it came to getting those crops from garden to table, I hated it.
I don’t mean that I tossed out my precious homegrown vegetables. I was living in rural France at the time where nobody wastes food, especially food from the garden. So I reluctantly invested time and effort into making the cheesy gratins and richly sauced vegetable dishes that my friends made.
Cooking with Plants from the Garden
But when I headed back to San Francisco to get my MFA (Master of Fine Arts), I knew it was time for a change. I was going to be too busy with classes (plus regular work as a writer) to really “cook.” Yet, I’d already put in a veggie garden in the backyard that was thriving. Then one day I overheard someone in a café talking about roasting vegetables in the oven. I remember her exact words: “A few minutes cutting them up, a spray of olive oil, a short time in a hot oven and I’m in vegetarian heaven.”
That evening when I headed home, I pulled up some beets and carrots from my garden. I washed them and sliced them, laid them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and sprayed them with olive oil. When the oven hit 350 degrees, I popped the sheet in and jumped back into my school work.
Twenty minutes later, I opened the oven door and was overwhelmed by a wonderful smell. The beets and carrots were cooked perfectly, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and full of roasted flavor. That was the beginning of my love affair with roasted vegetables, a passion that has stood the test of time.
Carrots and beets were just the start. Over the years, I’ve roasted peppers, asparagus, broccoli, kale, turnips, and just about any kind of root vegetable I could grow. Brussel sprouts might be my favorite. I cut them in two pieces, place them flat sides down and let them crisp. They taste nutty and rich. I eat them like candy.
So, I finally learned the truth about cooking with plants from the garden: it doesn’t have to be time-consuming and the dishes don’t have to be complex. Although San Francisco is full of renowned vegetarian restaurants, and I’ve eaten at more than a few, I have never tasted anything better than my very own roasted garden vegetables. Every time I cook them, I take my own personal trip to “vegetarian heaven.”
If you love eating vegetables, then try growing your own and cooking them. Any garden recipe will do depending on your cooking level – and food from the garden tastes far better when plucked from your own backyard.
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