You had wonderful plans for the pound of broccolini and two bunches of spinach you bought at the farmer’s market, but now it’s 10 days week later and the once lively vegetables are beginning to slowly compost in the crisper. A few busy days turned into a busy week, and the Thai stir fry and Lasagna Florentine are merely wilted imaginations. After a few versions of this scenario, you begin to wonder why you buy fresh food at all, and consider a diet of canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
So how do you avoid turning your refrigerator into a compost bin? Use your vegetables ahead of time by steaming, roasting, blanching or even pickling them shortly after purchase. Prepared vegetables can even be tossed in the freezer if you don’t plan on using them within the week. You can make simple meals from pre-cooked vegetables or cut way down on recipe time. Here are some of my favorite ways to use veggies before they decompose:
Pickled vegetables – I love carrots for a snack but find the orange pellets they call “baby carrots” tasteless. Big, fresh carrots are best, but cutting them too far in advance just dries them out. One way to enjoy veggies as a snack throughout the week is to store them in water in the fridge or, even better, pickle them. Pour your favorite hot refrigerator pickle solution over jars of carrots sticks, cauliflower florets, radishes, and cucumbers and you have yourself a tangy, health snack.
Roasted vegetables – Root vegetables and cruciferous vegetables are wonderful roasted. They can be added to salad, pasta, pizza, or served as a side to any main dish (roasted sweet potatoes are a simple, heavenly side). Toss with olive oil, salt, and any spices or herbs and roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until tender or desired doneness, approximately 10 minutes.
Blanched vegetables – Blanching is a great way to prepare vegetables al dente, so they can be added to recipes that might be cooked further such as stir fries and casseroles. Harder veggies such as roots, broccoli and carrots should boil in hot water for a couple of minutes (until their color turns bright) and then drained and shocked in an ice water bath. Softer veggies such as peppers, green beans, asparagus, and peas only need about a minute. I like to add blanched veggies to fried rice and baked macaroni and cheese.
Steamed vegetables – My new favorite quick lunch is brown rice, steamed vegetables and a curry or peanut sauce. Crazy delicious and healthy! All three items can be prepared ahead of time and then assembled throughout the week. Like roasted vegetables, steamed veggies do well as a side and can be reheated in the microwave or added cold to salads or other recipes. Spinach, chard and other greens can be steamed ahead of time then added to pasta dishes or soups.
Pesto – Basil is a warm weather plant, which may be why it doesn’t like the fridge and turns black within a couple of days. Pesto is so easy to make, can be made with a variety of ingredients, and freezes really well. No basil? Any leafy green – kale and arugula do well – blended with garlic, olive oil make a fantastic pesto you can toss with vegetables, pasta, or add to soups or pizzas. Experiment with ingredients. If you don’t like pine nuts, try cashews. Add lemon juice or jalapenos. Rougher greens like kale and collards do better if steamed ahead of time. Arugula can be used raw like basil.
Put your veggies to action and stop throwing money into the compost bin. Your body, wallet and footprint will be much greener! What are your ideas for how to save time and money preparing vegetables?
Photo credit: beautifulcataya