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30 Things to Know About Veggies By the Time You’re 30

30 Things You Should Know About Veggies by the Time You’re 30

published Jul 29, 2021
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Easing into your 30s means having the experience and the confidence to embrace what works for you and skipping what doesn’t. Now that you’ve got a few kitchen skills under your belt, stepping into the kitchen is less of a chore and more of a treat. And nothing screams “responsible” quite like skipping takeout and eating all the vegetables you picked up at the farmers market before they go bad. 

Sure, a bag of baby carrots and a tub of hummus in front of the TV is an easy way to get your veggies. But learning exactly how to use your crisper drawers (#2), make pesto from whatever is knocking around your fridge (#16), pickle onions (#14), and choose the most tender asparagus (#20) unlocks a whole world of flavor you might be missing out on. Give your veggies a little love, and they’ll love you right back.

1. Bake a potato like a Brit. There are few foods more comforting than a potato — and lots of strong opinions on how to bake one. After trying lots of different methods, we found that a British-style jacket potato has the fluffiest interior and crispiest skin. Plus, it’s really simple. You cut a cross-shape into the potato, bake them directly on the rack (yes, no foil!) at 400°F for two hours, split them open, and stick them back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Add butter and salt, and you’ll never try another method!

2. Conquer the crisper drawers. This is one of those “adult” things like folding a fitted sheet that seems overly complicated but is actually pretty simple. You know those sliders on the crisper drawers in the fridge? They control the humidity. Slide it completely open for more air flow and low humidity. A low-humidity environment is good for fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene gas and tend to spoil more quickly (think: apples and pears). The open vent allows that gas to escape. Close the slider completely for a higher humidity and store things that tend to wilt, like leafy greens.

3. MacGyver a grill basket. Grilling vegetables is an easy way to quickly impart a ton of flavor, but grill grates aren’t suited to skinny things like asparagus spears or green beans. Even the most careful cooks lose a few to the flames below. You could spend your hard-earned cash on speciality grill baskets, but chances are you already have what you need on hand. Grab a cooling rack and place it directly on top of your grill grates and put your veggies on top. No need for extra equipment, and not a single lost spear!

4. Give your veggies a close shave. “Shaving” vegetables is an underrated technique that gives you a totally different vegetable experience. The thin, delicate ribbons are a nice change of pace from sturdier slices and spears. To make them, all you need is a vegetable peeler (a Y-peeler is particularly well-suited to this job). Shave raw asparagus into a spring slaw, heap shaved zucchini onto a pizza crust, or shave carrots into an otherwise basic side salad. Ready to level up? A mandoline is an affordable upgrade, doesn’t take up much cabinet space, and makes quick work of potatoes, cabbage, and so much more. A mini version isn’t necessary, but is a fun tool for everything from Brussels sprouts to radishes to garlic cloves.

5. Take the bite out of raw onions. Raw onions are often a welcome contrast in salads or on a burger, but the pungent, lingering flavor can be overpowering. Avoid this by giving sliced onions a 10-minute soak in ice water before serving. The sulfur compounds responsible for the sting dissipate in the water during their bath. Drain, scatter across your sandwich, and enjoy!

6. Don’t overlook your microwave. Stovetop steamed veggies are easy, but using the microwave is a snap. A bundle of asparagus can be wrapped in four layers of damp paper towels and microwaved for three minutes. Broccoli florets go into a bowl with a few tablespoons of water, covered with a plate, and cooked for three minutes. You can even do corn on the cob! Microwave the cob, husk and all, for three minutes. Let cool for a bit, cut off the end, and pull the husk off by the silks.

7. Get wise about zucchini. During the summer zucchini is everywhere — often in comically large sizes. But when shopping, reach for the smaller specimens. They have lower water content and fewer seeds than the larger ones, meaning more concentrated flavor. They’ll also cook quicker, which is ideal for longer-cooked applications like caramelized zucchini.

8. Prep winter squashes the easy way. Peeling hard squashes is quite literally hard. Luckily, there’s an easy way to avoid that: Just roast them whole. Poke a few holes in the squash with a fork and roast on a sheet pan at 400°F until tender, about an hour depending on the size. Or put the whole thing in a slow cooker on high for six to eight hours. When it’s done, just halve it and scoop it out with a spoon. But don’t stop there: You can also eat the peel of some squashes! Both delicata and acorn squash have thin skins that can be eaten right alongside the flesh.

9. Don’t underestimate frozen peas. Of all the frozen vegetables, peas hold the top spot. While a bowl of buttered peas is a perfect side dish (or even an afternoon snack), they’re also an excellent ingredient to lean on when the cupboard is seemingly bare. One little bag can take you from breakfast to dinner. Start your day by mashing peas onto toast and top with a fried egg. For lunch, cook them until soft with a little onion and blend them with stock to make a quick soup. Come dinnertime, add peas to fried rice or stir them into a box of mac and cheese. (This is also a quick way to cool mac and cheese down if you’re feeding it to small children.)

10. Crash your veggies. Sliced is nice, but have you tried crashing your vegetables? This method has you smash vegetables like mushrooms, cucumbers, or potatoes instead of slicing and dicing them. The technique leaves lots of nooks and crannies and craggy pieces that add tons of texture. You can crush them with the heel of your hand, the flat side of a chef’s knife, or the bottom of a measuring cup. Mushrooms cook up both chewy and crispy at the same time. Sauces and dressings cling beautifully to smashed cucumbers. And there is nothing like the creamy-crackly combo of a crashed potato.

11. Shortcut your way to flavorful caramelized onions. Truly, deeply caramelized onions take around 45 minutes of cooking under a watchful eye. While it’s not very much work to hover over a pan and stir it every so often, it’s a decent investment in something that is often just a component of a recipe or meal. If you’re in a rush, cook them until tender, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the vinegar has mostly evaporated. The onions may lack a bit of depth compared to the long-cooked version, but will still have a delectable tangy sweetness worthy of topping a burger.

12. Give vegetables the meat treatment. Braising — simmering food in a bit of liquid until luscious — is typically applied to tough cuts of meat like short ribs and lamb shanks. But this technique also works wonders on veggies. Choose sturdy vegetables that can stand up to long cooking times: Brussels sprouts, eggplant, sturdy greens, radishes, winter squashes, and root vegetables are all excellent candidates. Cut into large pieces, sauté for a couple of minutes, and add enough cooking liquid (water or stock, perhaps with a splash of wine or beer, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, cream, or any mixture of these) to come up 1/3 of the way up the sides of the vegetables, cover, and simmer until tender. Finish with a bit of butter or oil for richness, and perhaps a splash of acid (lemon juice, vinegar) for brightness.

13. Stretch your spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash, that vegetable pasta imposter, is a fun way to incorporate more produce into your cooking. For the most dramatic effect, you want long, thin strands, which can be a little tricky. The strands of squash are arranged in a circular pattern inside the squash (like latitude lines on a globe), so instead of cutting the veggie lengthwise, halve it through the equator. This will keep the strands together instead of slicing them in half. Once cooked, run your fork around the perimeter of the squash to keep the strands intact.

14. Discover the power of the quick pickle. Pickling is one of those things that seems way more complicated than it actually is. Pickled radishes on a taco, onions tucked into a sandwich, green beans in a Bloody Mary — they all provide an irresistible brightness that keep you going back for that next bite. And they’re actually incredibly simple to make at home. A pound of fresh vegetables, a cup of vinegar, a cup of water, a tablespoon of salt, and about 20 minutes of prep is all you need. And you don’t even need any fancy canning equipment!

15. Cook the crispiest mushrooms. Mushrooms can be meaty and delicious — or a rubbery mess. If you salt them as soon as they hit the pan, they release a lot of liquid, which causes them to simmer and stew. By the time all the liquid has cooked off, you’re left with soggy mushrooms. Luckily, fixing this is easy: Just wait to salt them until after they’ve started browning and they’ll end up golden-brown and crispy.

16. Mix up your pesto. Basil pesto may be traditional, but who can resist an updated classic? Try a combination of soft herbs (we’re looking at you, cilantro), sturdy greens like kale or collards, or even cooked broccoli or asparagus. Swap in walnuts, or even peanuts, for the pine nuts, which can be pretty pricey. Purée with olive oil and stir in some cheese, if you like.

17. Extend the life of your salad greens. Surely everyone reading this has thrown away a bag of slimy salad greens they just didn’t get to in time. The simplest way to extend the life of your greens is to stick a dry paper towel in the bag or container where you store your greens. The paper towel wicks away the extra moisture, preventing condensation build-up on the bag and leaves, which can lead to spoilage.

18. Turn a head of cabbage into dinner. The shelf life of cabbage is almost eerily long. Buy one next time you’re stocking up and throw it in your fridge. It’s the perfect ingredient to discover behind the almond milk when you think you don’t have anything for dinner. Roast or grill wedges, cook it down with some sausage, shave some for a slaw to top tacos, simmer it into a soup — the possibilities are almost endless!

19. Make room for salad. Reach for a bigger-than-you-think-you-need bowl for those kitchen-sink chopped salads. Between the greens, grains, proteins, cheeses, seeds, nuts, and extra fruits and vegetables, you need room to move when you’re tossing it all with your dressing. You can plate it up after if you want, but it’s sort of fun to chow through a giant mixing bowl of salad. Plus, fewer dishes!

Alternatively, platters are an excellent foundation for salads (think of composed salads, like Niçoise or even a large-format grain bowl). Start with a base of dressed greens or grains. Neatly arrange piles of proteins or chopped vegetables on top, or tuck sliced cheese and tomatoes into the bed of greens. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the top. This method is great for serving salad to a table full of people. All the goodies don’t sink to the bottom of the bowl, and everyone can see exactly what they’re taking from the platter. Bonus: It’s gorgeous!

20. Know your asparagus. Some people swear by thin asparagus, while others will only buy thick, fat spears. Who’s right? It depends on what you’re making. For shaving thinly and serving raw or chopping into a salad, thin stalks are the way to go. Thin stalks can be fibrous and cutting can help counteract that. Fatter stalks, which tend to be juicy and succulent, are our go-to for blanching or roasting and are fabulous bathed in all sorts of sauces (we’re looking at you, hollandaise).

21. Roast your okra. Maybe you’ve stewed and deep-fried and pickled your okra, but have you tried roasting it? Just slice the pods lengthwise, toss them with oil and salt, and roast them at 375°F for 30 to 40 minutes until well-browned. The long spears emerge from the oven crispy and fry-like! Serve them as an app with a dipping sauce or pile a handful of them alongside a burger. 

22. When in doubt, stir-fry. A quarter of a head of broccoli, a few mushrooms, half an onion, and a wrinkly bell pepper. Chop it all up, stir-fry it with some garlic and ginger, and dinner is done. Just add rice.

23. Show the side salad some respect. A nicely dressed tangle of greens is a lovely accompaniment to a protein. A side salad next to your pasta makes it feel a little less like you just boiled some noodles. Putting a bit of extra care and thought into it ensures it feels like a true part of your meal you’ll enjoy, and not an obligatory thing you’re supposed to eat. Here’s an easy roadmap to a simply delicious side salad.

Start with bright and perky greens; add in soft herbs, like parsley, basil, mint, or tarragon; add less dressing than you think, and toss with your hands (skipping the tongs allows you to really feel how much dressing you’ve added to the bowl, and starting slow and adding more if needed avoids a soggy salad); finish with flaky salt or shaved cheese.

24. Cook up the corniest corn on the cob. The absolute best method to produce the most delicious, summer-sweet, corniest corn is to grill it on high for 15 minutes in the husk. No grill? Boil shucked cobs in salted water for five minutes. Sometimes simple is best!

25. Confit your garlic. Confit seems like an extremely fancy thing, but all it really means is “cooked in fat.” Garlic confit is the ultimate low-effort, high-reward kitchen project. Just peel two heads of garlic, add to a small pot, and cover with olive oil. Bring it to the barest of a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 45 minutes or until the cloves have softened. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Serve on a cheeseboard, in pasta, stirred into mashed potatoes, whisked into a salad dressing, smeared onto pizza, or anywhere that you could use an extra garlicky boost.

26. Protect your freshly steamed vegetables. Protect them from what, you ask? Moisture loss! Think of it like your rapidly expanding skincare routine — you want to lock in moisture. The steam that you see wafting off of freshly blanched or steamed vegetables is the moisture from within. Lock it in by tossing them with a bit of oil or butter.

27. Cook your lettuce. Cooking your salad greens is an excellent way to shake up the same-old salad routine. Escarole is excellent stirred into a brothy soup — or sear it in a super-hot cast iron skillet and pair it with a creamy dressing. Wedges of radicchio tossed on the grill temper some of its bitterness. Braise Little Gems for a surprising side dish. Or toss some romaine into the stir-fry from #22. ​

28. Give your veggies a fresh cut. Roll cutting is a simple knife technique that maximizes surface area, allowing for extra browning and space for sauce to cling to. It works well for round vegetables like carrots, zucchini, parsnips, and eggplant. It’s both attractive and functional. Start by trimming the end at a 45-degree angle. Rotate the vegetable a 1/4 turn, then cut a length again at the same 45-degree angle. Continue rolling and cutting. The veggie pieces look cool and taste great, too. Form and function!

29. Toss your perfectly ripe tomatoes into the blender. If you find yourself with an abundance of beautiful tomatoes (perhaps even verging on overripe), toss them in the blender, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a measuring cup. The subtly sweet tomato water is perfect poured over cold noodles, whisked into a salad dressing, or even a mixed into a light Bloody Mary. (Don’t forget to garnish with the pickled green beans from #14.)

30. Treat your veggies to DIY dressings. Store-bought dressing is easy, and will always have a place in our fridge, but whipping up a homemade dressing is fun and delicious and surprisingly simple. Start with these four and then whisk up your own creations!

  • New all-purpose vinaigrette: 1 shallot, 1/2 cup acid, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Easy Caesar dressing: 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Green tahini dressing: 1/2 cup fresh herbs, 1/4 cup tahini, juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon water, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Miso citrus dressing: 2 teaspoons miso paste, 2 to 3 tablespoons citrus juice