Growing up we always had a garden. Something my mom learned from my grandma. My mom is one of seven kids, so grandma was always looking for ways to feed a big family on a budget. Growing your own fruits and veggies helped with that. She had fruit trees and vines to harvest for jams, jellies and apple sauce and the garden for fresh produce as well as for pickling and canning.
Grandma would spend hours tending to her garden, it was always her happy place. As a kid I can remember spending hours in our garden weeding it with my mom. Weeding wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed but I did enjoy spending time with my mom and the fruits of our labor. As an adult I still don’t enjoy weeding, but I do love watching what I plant grow or being able to pull a green bean right off the vine and taste the warmth of the sun in every bite. There is something very satisfying in growing your own food. During the winter months I turn to hydroponic gardening which is mostly in the form of fresh herbs although someday I’d love to own a couple hydroponic towers and be able to grow more than just herbs in the winter months.
Gardening takes patience as I’ve found over the years. Squirrels, bunnies, ground hogs, racoons, deer, birds, and bugs have all tried my gardening patience from time to time. I’ve gotten better about mindful planting to ensure natures creatures and I can garden together peacefully and successfully.
Spring through late summer is some of my favorite months for plant-based cooking. Fresh vegetables are in abundance and the options are endless. From vegetables gratins, stuffed zucchini, tomato galettes there are endless culinary options.
Here are just a few of my favorite veggies for plant-based cooking regardless of the time of year.
Cruciferous vegetables are some of my favorites for plant-based cooking. This diverse veggie group includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Bok choy, arugula, brussels sprouts, collards and more. Cauliflower is a go-to for me as its hearty and has a neutral flavor. You can rice it for added bulk in stir-fry’s or grill it like a steak. You can even batter it and bake or fry it up as an appetizer and serve it with dipping sauces. It’s wonderful with other grilled vegetables or served up in its natural form as part of a crudité board.
Squash is another versatile vegetable. Summer squash and zucchini make for wonderful plant-based gratins or sweet breads such as my chocolate zucchini bread. While butternut squash is great for roasting or as the base in delicious soups.
Broccoli is wonderful in stir-fried, sautéed, roasted or left raw in salads like my broccoli salad recipe. Its great shredded and tossed with cabbage to make coleslaw in the summer.
Carrots are a great vegetable for making sofrito for sauces or stocks and can add sweetness to dishes because of their sugar content. They brown up easily but can also add some crunch to dishes when needed. The more you cook them the more their cell walls break down and they release their sugars making them perfect for making smooth dips. You can even use liquid smoke and make carrot bacon!
Sweet potatoes are great for roasting, adding sweetness to dishes or just eating on their own. I use them with butternut squash, green apples and spices to make interesting soup combinations. The anti-inflammatory properties in sweet potatoes are great for those that are looking for natural ways to help with inflammation. They also make a good snack for our furry friends. My dog Bear loves them, and I also put them in his homemade puppy chow.
Now that we’ve covered several vegetable options for plant-based cooking why not try your hand at making my pan roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce. You may want to double the tahini sauce to have it on hand all week as its great on sheet pan roasted vegetables as well!
Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce Recipe Serves: 4-6
¼ cup tahini, at room temperature and well stirred
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
Pinch of ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, grated to a paste using a micro plain
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek-style yogurt)
1 medium head cauliflower trimmed and cut into 8 equal wedge pieces
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley
In a mini food processor or mini prep place all tahini sauce ingredients in (except olive oil) and blitz until well combined. Stream in olive oil and blend until emulsified.
Place wedges cut side down on non-stick foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; gently rub to evenly distribute oil and seasonings. Flip cauliflower and season other side with remaining oil, salt, and pepper.
Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to roast until bottoms of cauliflower pieces are golden, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, and, using spatula, carefully flip wedges. Return sheet to oven and continue to roast until cauliflower is golden all over, 8 to 12 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with the tahini sauce, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve while still warm.
Be sure to check out the other blog posts in this series and our upcoming schedule for plant-based, vegan and gluten-free baking classes.
Upcoming Cooking & Baking Classes