Cara Mangini

Cara Mangini is executive chef & owner of Little Eater, a produce-inspired restaurant and food product company, in Columbus, OH. She shares vegetable tips and recipes at Little Eater. Her cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, is due out in spring 2016.
6 Reasons Celery Leaves Deserve Far More Attention
Celery leaves — known primarily as a throwaway top to an already underappreciated vegetable — are so often discarded. It’s a real shame. Celery leaves are actually a bonus to their stalks and completely virtuous on their own. Here’s everything you need to know about prepping them and turning them into a vibrant pesto. Celery leaves are delicious, nutritious, and packed with intense celery flavor.
Dec 14, 2022
What to Do With the Smallest, Most Beautiful Eggplants of All
If you are like me, you need a good recipe to handle the absurd number of eggplant varieties, like baby heirloom eggplants, you buy during the summer months. Especially, those sweet little Fairy Tale eggplants. With purple and white stripes and a miniature form, they are completely irresistible. I buy a basket of the adorable veggies from every vendor who sells them at the farmers market. Am I alone?
Dec 6, 2022
Garlic Confit Is the Magic Secret to Loving Any Vegetable
Garlic confit is my secret ingredient, my special sauce, one of my all-time favorite tricks to give any vegetable a makeover. It’s a play on an old technique (preserving meat in its own fat) and a venerable French dish (duck confit). You can use the same fancy term to cook and preserve garlic in essentially the same way. Except, here, olive oil is the fat of choice. The technique produces meltingly tender and sweet cloves, along with a by-product of fragrant and delicious oil.
Sep 12, 2022
10 Tips to Give Your Vegetables a Long and Happy Shelf Life
We all experience it — the anxiety that comes with bringing fresh produce home from the market, a little worry that settles in around day three when you haven’t yet used the new inventory. The first day holds so much promise and excitement for all the potential dishes that will come. There’s a new recipe for cauliflower hummus (wink, wink) you want to try. You expect to cook a beautiful bunch of Swiss chard with garlic and herbs, and wilt it down into a frittata filling.
May 1, 2019
15 Vegetables to Instantly Improve Your Vegetable Platter
I love that I can find a platter of vegetables at every birthday, barbecue, and holiday gathering. But let’s face it — carrot sticks, celery sticks, and sliced cucumbers are not the only candidates to arrange on a platter and serve with a dip. (I’m not judging; I get myself into that rut, too.) There are tons of vegetables that would love an opportunity to shine on a platter, to serve as a vehicle for a pesto, salsa, vinaigrette, vegetable puree, cheesy dip, or hummus.
Jun 27, 2015
Your Cast Iron Pan Is Begging for Shishito Peppers
If your cast iron skillet hasn’t met a shishito pepper yet, it’s time to make an introduction. The small, mild Japanese peppers make the ultimate hands-on snack. Shishito peppers have been trendy long enough to earn mainstay, summer-staple status. (I think they are just as worthy of our affection as tomatoes and zucchini.) They come to us completely ready to cook — absolutely no prep required.
Jun 25, 2015
If You Hate Turnips, Sweet Baby Turnips May Surprise You
Turnips are ancient — one of the oldest cultivated root crops in the world. Sadly, they acquired a bad rap somewhere along the way. For far too long, they were over-steamed or boiled until their sweetness and wonderful texture leached out of them. Large, overgrown turnips that come late in the fall and store through the winter haven’t helped. They have given turnips a reputation for being bitter and fibrous. (Poor turnips.
Jun 24, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Offers You 10 Ways to Make Zucchini a Main Dish
Zucchini is coming into season right now where I live in Columbus, Ohio. I’m genuinely thrilled! Zucchini signals the official start of summer and all the other vegetables that are on the way. Zucchini makes life a little easier in my professional kitchen (it takes almost no time to prep); it brings endless ideas to the menu and some of our customers’ favorite dishes. At home, the arrival of local zucchini means I can cook without having to plan ahead.
Jun 22, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher’s Favorite Tool for Ribbons and Noodles
There aren’t many single-function kitchen tools that I can get behind. Do we really need a jalapeño corer and an avocado cuber? I’ll admit I do love a strawberry huller and a citrus squeezer, but generally these types of products are fun at first use, then end up collecting dust and making clutter in my kitchen. My knives or my hands alone end up doing all the work.
Jun 21, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Banishes Your Fear of Celery Root
Celery root — also known as celeriac — is a hairy, knobby, all-around-gnarly-looking type of celery, one that is specifically cultivated for its root. (It’s not the root of the celery that we commonly eat.) Despite the root’s awkward, tough exterior, there are rewards to be discovered on the inside. Just get right to it — don’t give it time to intimidate you.
Jun 19, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Explains Why Swiss Chard Is the Sweetest and Sexiest of the Greens
Look, I love kale, don’t get me wrong. (I have the T-shirt.) I just think when it comes to cooking, Swiss chard is absolutely tops. It hails from the beet family and offers a more delicate and sweet flavor compared to other sturdy greens, making it an easy addition to endless dishes — soups, pastas, pizzas, stews, gratins, egg dishes, stuffed vegetables, and a simple sauté. Swiss chard is beautiful, easy to work with, and it cooks up in no time.
Jun 18, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Shows You How to Break Down Romanesco
Romanesco is stunningly, see-it-to-believe-it beautiful. Its fluorescent cone-shaped head, comprised of intricate spiraling florets, is almost too compelling and pretty to butcher. Don’t let that stop you! As nice as romanesco is to look at, it’s even better to eat. (I recommend roasting romanesco or lightly steaming it.) 1. Cut the base of romanesco if a thick stem protrudes beyond the florets. The stem should be flush with the base of the romanesco. 2.
Jun 17, 2015
3 Reasons to Drop That Lettuce and Meet Escarole
Lettuce is lovely, don’t get me wrong — it’s a tender and sweet bare canvas, ready to accept any other ingredients. But escarole, the leafy green chicory, comes with a pleasant bitter taste that makes it all the more interesting to eat. Paired with the right partners, it is out of this world. It comes in a range of sizes — from small softball-sized heads to much larger ones — just choose firmly packed heads with vibrant and unblemished leaves.
Jun 16, 2015
A Better Way to Get Your Beet On
When you have the time to spare, sure, you can wrap your beets in foil and roast them. It’s a mostly mindless method that will yield pretty good results. But truthfully, that method can take forever, and toward the end of cooking you’ll have to unwrap and wrap the beets to check doneness — each time piercing the beets with a paring knife, while the juice spills out. It’s an advertised no-mess method that ends up getting a little dirty.
Jun 12, 2015
Are You Eating the Best Part of Broccoli?
Broccoli has been sitting in the shadows of cauliflower for a while now. I’ve watched it happen, slowly, as cauliflower and its wonder recipes receive all the attention. Good ol’ green broccoli — the poster-child for all wonder-veggies — is full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Let’s not cast it away as the dark meat of the brassica family; it’s one we should consider eating on a regular basis.
Jun 11, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher’s Favorite Way to Eat Leeks All by Themselves
A leek is the kind of vegetable that makes you want to give nature a big high five. Their ombré skins gradate from dark green to chartreuse to white. They captivate in this way from the tops to the root, and from the inside out. Their thick outer layer unfurls like a scroll of paper, which indicates they need softening, but doesn’t offer a clue as to how meltingly tender and toothsome they can be. Baby leeks are cute and quite sweet.
Jun 10, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Really Wants You to Give Fennel a Chance
Fennel has some serious PR issues, I know. Its reputation has eaters on the defense, and I’ll agree, it isn’t so intuitive to cook. Some farm partners have told me they have had to stop growing fennel (this makes me sad) — their CSA members are not interested or simply don’t know what to do with it. At my restaurant, if we mention “fennel” in a beautiful slaw or soup, some customers will steer clear.
Jun 9, 2015
Sorrel Is the Lemon of the Vegetable World
Sorrel is forest green and grassy in color, but it is all yellow and citrus in taste. Wild or cultivated, this so-called weed has a wonderful, sharp lemony flavor (thanks to oxalic acid in its leaves). It is packed with nutrients, and has more assertive and bright character than you might find in more common greens. If you aren’t cooking with sorrel, I strongly recommend you start. Young, small-leafed sorrel is all ready to eat raw. Its tartness and mellow acidity makes for a lovely salad.
Jun 8, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Explains Why You Should Always Wash Your Produce
I know it can seem tedious, even annoying, to have to wash produce before you cook. Sometimes it feels like such a chore, an extra step, before you can get dinner on the table. However, whether you cook it or use it raw, produce always needs washing. A good scrub, run, or shake under water, followed by a thorough rinse, will remove dirt, grit, and sand that can affect the quality, texture, and taste of your finished dishes.
Jun 7, 2015
Jicama Is Probably the Most Exciting Vegetable You’re Not Eating
Jicama can be intimidating. If you haven’t been formally introduced to the whole vegetable, you probably don’t know what you are looking for. And once you do know the tuber’s form, they can be quite large, with bark-like skin — perhaps even a little ominous. It’s easy to forget how juicy, crunchy, and downright exciting they are. I hear it all the time when customers bite into jicama. “Why don’t I eat jicama more?
Jun 5, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Answers the Most Important Asparagus Question
At some point we all started snapping asparagus, automatically, like programmed kitchen robots. Bend and snap. Bend and snap. I’ll admit, it’s awfully fun, and for asparagus with woody ends, it works well. The problem is, not all asparagus needs such aggressive treatment (and asparagus ain’t cheap). So let’s take advantage of as much of that grassy and tender spear as possible.
Jun 4, 2015
Cauliflower Hummus Is the Dip You Need in Your Life
We all love cauliflower at this point, don’t we? It has certainly come a long way. We’ve tried it as rice, couscous, pizza crust, and cake. We regularly blend it into a mashed potato substitute and roast it until it becomes nutty and sweet — no longer over-steamed and scarred with an overwhelming cabbagey taste. We are eating it tossed with grains, featuring it in salads, and treating it like a steak.
Jun 2, 2015
The Vegetable Butcher Wants to Guide You to Your Radish Soul Mate
Radishes will seduce you. They come in endless colors, shapes, and sizes — perfectly round, interestingly oblong, large and small, polished and glossy, hot pink, purple, fluorescent green, and white. Bite into a radish and you’ll get hooked on its signature, peppery bite. The attraction is so easy. But the question is, do you really know what to do with radishes? I’ll admit, it took me some time to get acquainted with radishes.
Jun 1, 2015