Many people are trying to cut back on their meat intake, whether that’s for environmental reasons, ethical reasons or just to be a bit healthier. But a lot of people struggle with meat-free meals because we always think of vegetables as a side dish. We never make them the star of the show and they’re often considered the less exciting side dish that goes along with meat.
When people are trying to eat less meat, they often resort to meat replacements, which tend to be disappointing compared to the real thing. But that’s not the way to go because vegetables can be just as delicious if you put them front and center and learn how to prepare them properly. These are some of the best ways to make vegetables the star of the show.
Saute With Herbs and Spices
Boiling is one of the most common ways that we cook vegetables when we have them as a side dish, but it’s the worst way to cook them. If you boil them for too long, they end up mushy and they never have that much flavor, which is why sauteing them is a much better way to go. Instead of boiling them until they are soft, why not throw them in a frying pan with some herbs and spices? You get a much better flavor because they caramelise and the herbs and spices bring a whole new element to the dish. Suddenly, your vegetables are no longer a boring side dish, they are an exciting main course. They have a lot more texture as well because they retain some of their crunch when they are sauteed.
Smoking is a brilliant way to cook meat and fish and it adds so much flavor when compared with simply roasting in the oven, but have you considered smoking vegetables? Using BBQ smokers to cook vegetables adds so much depth of flavor and creates a far more interesting dish. Things like aubergines, for example, are a great alternative to a steak or a pork chop if you put them in a smoker and you even have that meat-like flavor, so it’s ideal for people that are resistant to cutting back on their meat. You can experiment with different marinades and combinations of wood to get unique flavors.
When cooking vegetables on a BBQ, you also get those delicious grill lines that add flavor and make them look more enticing than a simple boiled or roasted vegetable.
Pickled vegetables are used a lot in Asian cuisine and they add a whole new level to ingredients that normally take a back seat. There are a lot of benefits to pickling because the fermented vegetables are great for your health and it’s a brilliant way to preserve vegetables that would normally be thrown out. You can pickle pretty much whatever vegetable you like and the taste is far more complex and interesting than a standard boiled vegetable. They’re great as a topping or a side but you can add them to things like a stir fry for a more unique flavor. The best thing is, you can pickle vegetables in bulk and then you always have them there to add to your dishes and take them to the next level.
Stuffing vegetables is another simple way to create a main dish that is tasty and exciting. If you saute some onions and garlic and add a few herbs and spices, you can stuff mushrooms and top them with cheese to create a delicious dish. Bell peppers stuffed with rice work great as well. You have plenty of room to experiment with different fillings and roast your stuffed vegetables in the oven. You could even stuff vegetables and smoke them on the BBQ to add even more flavor to them.
It’s a shame that vegetables usually end up as a bland side dish that people eat because they want to get their 5 a day. Vegetables are actually very versatile and if you give them a bit of care and attention, they can be just as delicious as the meat dishes that you normally cook. If you want to cut back on your meat intake for whatever reason, you need to learn how to make vegetables the star of the show so you don’t miss your meat ingredients at all. These are all great ways to take the humble vegetable and elevate it to a new level. Once you start experimenting, you can make some incredible dishes, so why not get started today?