Please Help Me Eat My Veggies!
Updated: May 27
Have you ever wondered how it is possible to follow the USDA daily recommended 7 – 9 servings of fruits and vegetables? It sometimes seems so much that … why even try? Well, you may be surprised how easy it can be!
As we are seriously heading into the summer months, the produce section at the store is more and more colorful, the fruits more and more tasty and the vegetables more and more likely to be grown locally.
I always look forward to this time of the year when I no longer have to choose between pears, bananas, kiwis or apples. Rather, the myriad of berries, the apricots, the white vine peaches, nectarines and plums add so much pizzazz to our salads, starting with the classic spinach, goat cheese and strawberry salad… a drizzle of fig-infused red wine vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil (in that particular order) and … voila! What a combination! What a treat! A pleasure to the eye, a pleasure to the palate. Simple and easy.
As simple and easy is the bistro salad, which calls for good tomatoes, a couple of hard-boiled eggs, and some classic emulsified vinaigrette - That’s it! The bistro salad was one extremely popular lunch item on the menu at my restaurant. Some guests would drive 80 miles round trip weekly to have my French onion soup and bistro salad combination! I was and still am so very grateful for those wonderful people that became my extended family there at the restaurant.
Tomatoes are not hard to find – vine-ripe tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes… There are too many varieties of tomatoes to remember them all. Good tomatoes, on the other hand, firm yet juicy with a bright pigment, are indeed hard to find, and they are a must for the bistro salad. As soon as a tomato loses its firmness, it becomes pithy. One day it may not be ripe enough, and the next day it may be too ripe. Because the rule is never to refrigerate tomatoes because they lose their flavor and never get it back, it can be tricky to plan a meal with the “perfect, just ripe”, fresh tomatoes. All you need is some patience, and strike when the time is just right. In other words, it is not when you are ready but when the tomatoes are ready that you will serve the classic bistro salad.
Have you ever had celery root? Most of you, I know, have not. If I asked the same question to my fellow citizens in France, most of them have, only because “céleri rémoulade” is hugely popular in France. We do not cook the root; rather, we shred it, sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Finally, we dress it with … mayonnaise – light or not so light mayonnaise, whichever you choose. Soo good! If you wish to give it a try, look for a heavy root, though. The heavier the root, the fresher it is. If the celery root is light, that is a hint that it is too old. You will be disappointed, and chances are, it will go to waste.
There is so much to know about fruits and veggies – It is not only the planting, the growing and the harvesting – Each fruit, each vegetable has a history. Tracing the apple, the tomato, or the potato to its origin can be fascinating, and you find yourself wondering why it took you so long to know more about such a commodity as ordinary as a potato.
If you would like to know more about some of those ingredients that you use and eat on a daily basis such as the apple, the tomato, or the potato, I invite you to make some time to watch my recipes on video. You may not be a cook. You may not be interested in the recipe. But you may find the stories and anecdotes (usually at the beginning and at the end of each video) amazing.
Whatever produce you get at the store or at the farmers’ market, there are some things that you should avoid doing such as keeping it in a plastic or a biodegradable/compostable bag. Give your produce room to breathe and ripen. Vegetables should be washed, dried, and refrigerated. Fruit should be washed and left to ripen at room temperature.
If you are like me, you probably have fun shopping in the produce section, always resolved to get half a cart full of beautiful, healthy goodies – organic carrots, local kale, white asparagus, and so much more. You feel great about bringing home what is going to give you and your family a marvelous, healthy start for the upcoming week which gets off to a flying start … but ends up on a less positive note with too many convenient take-outs … And the fresh produce is no longer fresh… The asparagus is developing a weird ammonic smell and the hydroponic lettuce is getting droopy.
Why buy all this and leave it in the refrigerator? I understand it happens all the time, and our garbage bins are full of unconsumed veggies! The intention is good at the beginning, but convenience takes over and dictates our decisions.
Have you thought of preparing all the produce as soon as you come back from shopping? I do not mean cooking or seasoning or processing it. I mean having it ready so that getting it out of the refrigerator and putting it on the table is AS EASY AS OPENING A BAG OF CHIPS… while it is so much healthier.
It works. It really does. It saves you time. It saves you money. It keeps you healthy, and the healthier you are, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the brighter the day is. Give it a try, it may just do the trick.