For most of our lives and for most of our eating patterns, vegetables have simply been the side portion to plates. They’re beautiful, of course, and a great way to get vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, but vegetables haven’t taken the brunt of our plates and eating patterns. But all that is changing as more and more people are turning to vegetables instead of traditional protein sources. And what’s also great about moving vegetables to the centerpiece of any meal is that there’s an ever-rotating selection of what you can sample, based on the season.
Summer, of course, offers an unmatched bounty. But there are really distinct options to look at in every season. And with non-traditional ways to prepare them, vegetables can even take over for things such as carbs — take the popular vegetable noodles, for example. How can you move vegetables into a more main consideration for your meals? This graphic offers some super-tasty ideas to consider.
It can be easy to think of vegetables as side ingredients or as supporting actors to the starring dish: meat. As Americans look to bump up veggie consumption, they’re realizing vegetables can be the star of any meal, anywhere… including the office. In fact, tasty, satisfying dishes can center around one or more vegetables with or without the addition of meat.
Bring on the veggies
Summer is easy bounty. Fall brings us the harvest’s grand finale. Winter reminds us that root crops and hearty veggies can keep us warm inside and out. Then there’s spring.
After a gray winter, the vibrant greens, purples, and reds of spring vegetables remind us that color is coming back to the world. As the days warm and daylight slowly stretches later into the evening, we can look forward to feasting on a growing bounty of veggies such as:
- Bok Choy
- Fava Beans
- Salad Greens
The idea behind vegetable noodles is simple: swap pasta or other styles of grain-based noodles with “noodles” made out of vegetables. Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, are perhaps the best known, but there are a wide variety of veggie noodles including ones made from:
- Butternut squash
- Daikon radish
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet Potato Noodles at Natural Garden (Austin)
- Zucchini Noodles at Hey Hey Canteen (New York)
- Chelini Fresh at Pasta Works (San Francisco Bay Area)
Instead of piling meat onto your pie, swap some or all of your pepperoni or sausage with your favorite seasonal veggies. While caramelizing in heat, vegetables gain rich, complex flavors, and the variety of veggie textures adds joy to every bite.
Winter and spring vegetables are perfect for pizza. Here are a few ideas to up your topping game:
- Veggie Flatbread at Blue Line Pizza (San Francisco Bay Area)
- Vegan Cheeseless Veggie Pizza or White Pie with Broccoli at Joe’s Pizza (New York)
- Strictly Veggie Pizza at Home Run Inn (Chicago)
- Deep dish pizza with spinach, ricotta, feta, mushrooms, onions, and garlic at Little Star (San Francisco Bay Area)
The veggie burger is a simple idea: Instead of a savory meat-based patty, use a mix of legumes, grains, and/or vegetables for flavors and textures reminiscent of a traditional burger, with the added health benefits of produce.
Veggie burgers can include a range of ingredients, depending on your diet and preferences. Beans and legumes often feature prominently in veggie burgers. The texture and hearty flavor of mushrooms—namely Cremini or Portobello—also makes them a popular ingredient. Here are some other plant foods you might find in a tasty veggie burger:
- Black beans
- Flax meal
- Green onions
Commercial plant-based alternatives are available, including Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, Lightlife Smart Patties, and Before the Butcher’s Uncut Burgers. If you want to make your own instead, you can experiment with different veggies, grains, legumes, and more.
- Impossible Burger at Soul & Smoke (Chicago) and Dickson’s Farmstand Meats (New York City)
- Vegetarian Woodstock Burger at Cluck-n-Burger (Austin)
- Grilled Portobello Burger at Soul & Smoke (Chicago)
- Tofu and Sweet Potato Burger on Portobello Buns at Creative Concepts (New York City)
For starters, yes, you can make paella at home. You can even get the crusty, browned, rice layer (called socarrat) the fabled Spanish rice dish is really all about.
While paella is known for being cooked in a dedicated paella pan, you can make an incredible version without one. You can cook paella in a frying pan or even a Dutch oven—just make sure the vessel you choose has a thick base so the bottom rice layer can crisp without burning.
Paella is also versatile enough to include your preferred mix of veggies and proteins, such as:
- White beans
- Bok choy
- Fava beans
- Paella Party at Patatas (San Francisco)
Grilled vegetable skewers
Veggie skewers (or veggie kebabs) are a black-charred, bright-tasting, colorful way to ring in spring. The only requirements are that the vegetable be sturdy enough to fit on one or two skewers and cut to the right thickness so everything on the skewer finishes grilling at the same time (after all, no one wants some veggies burnt and others raw).
Here are a few good veggies to slice and skewer:
- Morels and other mushrooms
- Veggie Skewers at Souvlaki (New York City)
Give veggies the star treatment tonight
No matter the season, it’s good for the body and good for the soul to bump up the produce in your diet. With these ideas to inspire you, how will you put veggies to work in your supper tonight?