Thursday, June 12, 2008

Woe is me, I have to eat vegetables

Given my quest to eat low-sugar foods, even lower sugar fruits and vegetables, and the abundance of vegetables at the farmer’s market, I have definitely been eating my share of green vegetables lately. See, green vegetables like spinach and broccoli are packed with tons of healthy vitamins and minerals, and they are also typically lower in sugar than vegetables like carrots, potatoes, or beets. The large exception is green peas, which are really high in fiber, but also really high in sugar.

At the market the other day, I loaded up my bags with zucchini and broccoli, purchased an enormous walla walla sweet onion, and couldn’t resist two pints of fresh hood river strawberries. For those of you who live in the Portland area, you know about both the delight of cooking with walla walla sweets (sweeter than any other onion, when cooked they almost have a caramelly-sweet taste) and eating fresh hood river strawberries. These berries are dark red throughout, so tender, so juicy… I’ve often said I want to take a bath in them. Until I moved to Portland, I had never experienced how delicious strawberries could be and I thought all strawberries had a tasteless, white center. Strawberries, by the way, are one of the lower-sugar fruits. Hooray!

As wonderful as my market trip may sound, I definitely get into ruts and I feel blah about cooking vegetables…again. As I was cleaning and chopping the 5 knobs of broccoli I had purchased, I decided to throw some into a pot to steam with some diced walla walla onion. I then pulled out the leftover rice from the Mexican meal Ben and I had made the night before, which contained fresh garlic, sea salt, cilantro, and lime juice. I topped a healthy serving of the rice with an even healthier serving of the broccoli and onion, and then, after nosing around in my fridge for a bit, tossed on some toasted sliced almonds for protein. I grabbed a fork, brought my bowl to the table, and sat down with a self-pitying sigh, thinking, “Here we go again…vegetables and rice…”

Oh dear god! I took one bite and nearly fell off my chair it was so good. I moaned and groaned with each bite. Normally, I think about how to tweak recipes as I eat them, always asking myself what would make it even better. Not with this one. It was pure delight. With complete sarcasm and a sideways smile, I thought, “Woe is me, I have to eat vegetables.”

One of my favorite ways to eat vegetables, however, is finding ways to make them the base of a delicious, nutritious meal. See, the rice is good, but is lacking in nutritional value (even brown rice). When I can, I think of vegetables as the “rice” or the “pasta” of a meal and go from there.

Zucchini works really well for this, and is an easy way to utilize all of that zucchini and summer squash no one knows what to do with this time of year. This is one dish I have begun to CRAVE lately, it’s so good:

Roasted zucchini and white bean salad

1 large zucchini, sliced thinly (this works well for those the size of a small club)
1 cup dry white beans, cooked (see note below)
OR one can white beans
½ large sweet onion, diced or sliced how you like it
1 large avocado, sliced
Good olive oil (the oil you use flavors your food, so use a good one!)
Sea salt

Toss sliced zucchini and onion in a large bowl, add a splash of olive oil, some sea salt, and basil. Mix well. Place the mixture in a single layer in a baking dish and roast in the oven (uncovered) for 20-25 minutes at 425F, until tender. Alternatively, you can also sauté the onion and zucchini with salt and basil in a large skillet, if it’s hot outside and you don’t want to heat the house up with the oven!

Meanwhile, heat the cooked beans (if previously prepared) on the stove in a sauce pan.

Dish up zucchini onto 4 plates, top with ¼ of the cooked beans, and ¼ of the sliced avocado. Enjoy!

Feeds 4.
Cooking dry beans at Home

Note: Hot-soaking and then cooking dry beans in your crockpot will help reduce some of the “gassy sugars” that produce gas and bloating. If you are working to reduce inflammation, this may be particularly important.

“No Toot” crockpot beans (from The Bean Cookbook, Northarvest Bean Growers Association):

Heat 10 cups of water and 1 tsp salt in a large pot, bring to boiling
Add 1 pound dry beans (always inspect your beans for stones and rinse with cool water first!)
Boil for 2-3 minutes
Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 4-16 hours.
Drain, discarding the soak water, rinse beans well with fresh, cold water
Pour beans into crockpot, cover with fresh, cold water, add 1 tsp salt.
Cook on low for 8-12 hours.
Use in recipe, refrigerate, or freeze.

I have done this successfully using only a cup of dry beans; you don’t need to cook the whole pound of beans at once. I also find that the beans become almost too tender after soaking most of the day and cooking overnight 8 hours on low, so if you can check on your beans during the cooking process for doneness, do so. However, they really are “tootless!”

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