The Best Vegetable Cooking Tip I’ve Ever Received Was Also the Simplest
I watched my friend add an extra three tablespoons of olive oil to her broccoli with a mixture of amazement and skepticism. She then broiled it in the oven until the florets were basically charred through, and the stems soft and wilted. Then she added a dollop of butter and a dash of salt.
The broccoli tasted good, but it didn’t quite taste… like broccoli anymore, I suppose.
Plain vegetables are not bland vegetables
Watching my friend cook broccoli, at first, it occurred to me that my friend was simply picky and didn’t like the taste of broccoli. But when I realized that she cooked all of her vegetables in the same way, I understood that broccoli wasn’t the issue. She assumed she didn’t like all vegetables.
An assumption that creates a problem…
I no longer click on articles with titles like, “How to Make Vegetables Actually Taste Good” or “20 Vegetable Dishes That People Will Surprisingly Want to Eat,” because vegetables shouldn’t be treated like the necessary-evil food.
Such a perspective is the antithesis of healthy cooking because it results in vegetables that are overcooked and covered in some sort of heavy oil or sweet-salty dressing. It becomes normal for broccoli to be cooked with lots of olive oil or salads drowned in a creamy ranch. To prepare them otherwise is unappetizing or bland.
In contrast, I have found Japanese food to rarely use oil or heavy seasonings in vegetable dishes. In fact, it often embraces the natural taste of them: It’s why plain, shredded cabbage is often served as a side dish, or why raw grated daikon is used as a condiment to saltier dishes. Popular Japanese movies will include scenes of children biting into raw vegetables and enjoying them, not as a statement to encourage children to eat more vegetables, but simply because vegetables are already seen as something delicious.