A couple years ago, I adopted an easy way of preparing fresh vegetables from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. (Great, comprehensive resource for basic cooking, by the way.) Instead of waiting for a pot full of water to boil in order to steam some broccoli, I put about a half-inch of water in the bottom of a skillet filled with broccoli. With the lid on, heat the water/broccoli over medium-high heat, until the broccoli turns bright green (usually seems to take about 3-5 minutes but I base it more on what it looks like than how much time has gone by). If the water hasn’t completely evaporated, drain the water, and then add a little olive oil to the pan (and red pepper flakes if you like) with the broccoli. Saute broccoli in oil for another minute or so, mix in some lemon juice and a little salt, and you’re done. It’s a great way to get bright, crisp broccoli, and I use basically the same technique for asparagus, broccolini, and brussels sprouts.
While this is my go-to approach for vegetables, it’s nice to change up the routine a bit, while still maintaining light, fresh ways for preparing the veggie portion of dinner. One recent favorite is grilled zucchini and squash. We don’t have an actual grill, but my sister and Mike gave us a Le Creuset grill pan for an early wedding gift, and it’s perfect for this. Over medium heat, I just brush the zucchini/squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Turn over after about 4-5 minutes, but this depends a lot of how thick you cut the squash and how well-cooked you like it. I’ve tried marinating the zucchini first with olive oil, some white balsamic vinegar, and herbs, but honestly, the simplicity of grilling with just oil, salt and pepper is quite flavorful.
I also was excited to try this recipe for Shaved Asparagus with Parmesan Vinaigrette. I’ve never cooked (or, not cooked) raw asparagus, and the idea of transforming it by shaving it into ribbons (with a vegetable peeler) was appealing. The recipe calls for large asparagus spears, and I can see why. The bunch that I had were of varying sizes (seriously, they ranged from like 1/4 inch to 1 inch thick!) and the larger spears definitely had a nicer texture and sweeter taste. And as reviewers on Epicurious suggested, laying the spears flat on a cutting board and shaving with a vegetable peeler worked well.