8 Cooking Tricks to Elevate That Basic Veggie Side

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8 Cooking Tricks to Elevate That Basic Veggie Side
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8 Cooking Tricks to Elevate That Basic Veggie Side

Read on to learn eight ways you can reinvent the classics.

Image Credit: apaltynowicz

Use oil wisely

Roasting is quick, easy and imparts so many flavors to vegetables—but you don’t want to wind up overdosing on oil. Drizzling oil directly over veggies on a baking sheet can result in half a pan that’s soggy and another half that’s dry or burnt. Try this: after cutting your vegetables, add everything to a large bowl or large zip top plastic bag, pour in oil and seasoning, and toss very thoroughly to coat. As a rule of thumb, I like to use about 1 tablespoon oil per pound of vegetables for roasting.

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Add a pinch of sugar

Tomato-based dishes have a high acid content, but a pinch of sugar may be all that is required to mellow out the acidity, allowing the flavor of the tomatoes and spices to shine through. This same trick can reduce the natural bitterness of veggies such as greens (think: collard, turnip, kale) as well.

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Massage your greens

Speaking of bitter greens like kale, if you are going to have them raw in a salad, a massage (to break down the natural cellulose structure) is in order. This will take it from tough and bitter to tender and almost slightly sweet. Simply take bunches of kale leaves (fibrous ribs removed) and rub them together with both hands. Repeat for several minutes until you start to see the leaves shrink slightly, darken, and soften in texture.

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Cooling racks aren't just for cookies

Believe it or not, baked fries absolutely can be on par with the drive-thru type with the aid of one handy handy tool: a cooling rack. Rather than baking fries on a flat pan, use a grated cooling rack on top of a baking sheet inside the oven. This allows heat to surround the potatoes on all sides, resulting in a crispier texture.

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Season (without the salt shaker!)

Check the spices section for salt-free, calorie-free dried herb and spice mixes, and don’t be afraid to sprinkle your veggies liberally. They may often be marketed as such, but spice blends shouldn’t just be limited to meat and seafood. A few delicious combos include: dill on corn on the cob, a pinch of nutmeg in sautéed spinach, and an Italian herb blend over roasted broccoli.

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Two pans are better than one

Overcrowding the pan can be one of the subtlest offenders to vegetable preparation. This goes for sautéing, roasting, and baking. If you overcrowd the pan, you’ll wind up with a mass of steamed veggies. Each piece should have ample room to move about, even if this means using an additional pan to create space.

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Redefine "steak"

You already know about roasting whole heads of cauliflower, but have you tried a roasted cabbage steak? Slice cabbage in 1/2 inch thick slices, gently rub with olive oil, season as desired, and roast at 425 degrees until browned and slightly crispy. Red or green cabbage— both work well!

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Mix fruits with veggies

If you tend to keep your fruit and veggie side dishes segregated, know that they actually can enhance the textures and flavors of a dish when prepared together. Roasting apples with Brussels sprouts caramelizes the apples and crisps sprouts and neutralizes any trace of a bitter flavor with sweetness. Or add a little orange juice and zest to your sautéed carrots for a bright, citrus flavor that balances carrots’ natural sweetness.

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Vegetables are a staple in our diets, and we're always on the hunt for new ways to serve them up. Discover smart and healthy tricks to kick up the flavor, reinvent the classics and make those sides shine.

Check out the slideshow above to learn 8 tricks to elevate your basic vegetable sides.

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