It’s no secret that veggies are having a major moment. Even the most enthusiastic carnivores among us are wising up to the fact that when it comes to brilliant color, fresh flavor and endless variety, vegetables are hard to beat. I’m always shocked when I hear people say that they don’t like vegetables, but after further investigation, it usually becomes apparent that they’re talking about the bland overcooked variety that their mom force-fed them growing up. I decided it was high time for all of us to learn how to prepare the most brilliant, flavor-packed veggies at home, so I went straight to the expert. Chef Andrew Wiseheart heads up the kitchen at Contigo, famous for its killer charcuterie and knockout burger — so it came as a bit of a surprise when he and business partner Ben Edgerton opened the doors to their vegetable-focused hot spot, Gardner, last year. However, anyone who may have been skeptical of Andrew’s chops with veggies was soon silenced when they tasted his nouveau renditions of cauliflower and cabbage, so I knew he’d be the guy to show us how to take our veggie game to the next level. Without further ado, 5 chef secrets to make your veggies shine…
1. Shave super thin and eat raw (best with broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and celery root.)
Use a mandolin, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife to shave thin slices of veggies, then marinate in salt & vinegar until they wilt. Add herbs, mayo or other raw vegetables like shallots and peppers to make the flavors your own.
Shave and let vegetables warm up on top of a steak or roasted chicken as a healthy take on the classic compound butter. The fresh and raw profile goes well with the deep flavors of the meat and also makes for a nice garnish. For this one I like to use red or green onions tossed with lime juice and salt.
image: Kate LeSueur
2. Use a burnt vegetable to your advantage.
(Maybe even try and burn one on purpose!)
- Peel a butternut squash cut in half long ways, then take the seeds out.
- Season the cut edge with salt and brush with oil.
- Place it cut side down on the hottest grill you can create.
- Close the lid if that is possible or place a lid cover with a piece of foil. Let the bottom get black and the rest should bake.
- Once done, you will have a small strip of charred flavor and a large piece of cooked squash. Slice short pieces about ¼ – ½” thick.
- Pair with something acidic!
image: Brian Bedrosian
3. Cook vegetables whole and use the inside for a sauce or purée. (best with eggplant, butternut squash, cauliflower, and most root vegetables.)
image: Brian Bedrosian
4. Don’t overcook them. (especially true with green vegetables!)
When cooking at home and serving grilled or sauteed veggies, make them the last item that you cook. I’m always more impressed by someone that can bring perfectly cooked, seasoned, and hot vegetables to the table than someone who can cook a piece of meat well.
5. Use a sharp knife.
When you see the cut side of chopped lettuce or herbs start to turn brown, it is often because it was cut with a knife that was not sharp enough. Using a sharp knife when slicing and chopping will actually extend the shelf life of your prepped vegetables.
image: Winnie Au
Big thanks to Chef Andrew Wiseheart for sharing these game-changing veggie techniques! To taste his expertise in action, be sure to stop by Gardner next time you’re in Austin for an unforgettable meal.
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