‘TIS THE SEASON
This is a great time of year. Flowers are in bloom and there are plenty of wonderful fresh vegetables available. I’m not much of a winter person. I enjoy the hot days and especially the warm nights. I’ve always responded to the academic calendar because of attending or teaching school, so summer is a time to relax and enjoy freedom from a strict schedule. But one of the best things about this season is the food. Barbeques are great. Food always seems to taste better when it’s cooked out of doors. And we have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Most of us grew up eating canned vegetables. These already cooked vegetables are then cooked again until they have no crunch and fail to resemble anything that once held life. Many of us reject even fresh vegetables in the belief that they are the same food we gagged down as children so we could be allowed to leave the table. The truth is that even most fresh vegetables are steamed or boiled and then put on the table. Green beans cooked with bacon and lots of salt taste great, but cardboard would taste good with enough bacon.
The thing we’ve forgotten to do is season vegetables. Most people use salt and pepper at the table. We know that too much salt is unhealthy, so that’s not a great option. There are so many other choices available. I cringe when I see people dousing their entire plate with hot sauce. What they’re doing is substituting heat for flavor.
One of the most versatile seasonings is citrus. Lemon juice will bring out the flavor in green beans, broccoli and asparagus, which are all really healthy options. Even cooked carrots taste better with lime or lemon juice on them. In addition, a bit of butter or olive oil will help vegetables hold the seasonings one chooses to enhance the flavor of their side dishes.
Cumin has a great flavor and works in mashed potatoes as well as other vegetables. Powdered garlic is often more flavorful than fresh garlic, and it’s less susceptible to burning to the point that it’s bitter. Hot sauce can be avoided with a small amount of cayenne red pepper. There are plenty of other spices too, and they’re not just to enhance meat dishes. Even restaurants fail to season vegetables most of the time. But you can ask for a bowl of lemon wedges. If drinks are served, they’ll have lemons. I assure you that a little lemon juice over your green vegetables will really kick them up a notch. I first learned to eat salad with lemon or lime juice as my dressing. Citrus juice is also compatible with balsamic vinegar. This just takes a bit of experimentation.
When I fix asparagus, I melt some butter, pour in some lemon juice, garlic powder and a bit of sugar or honey and the flavor is magnificent. You can steam them and then add the sauce, or you can douse them in the sauce and cook them in the oven wrapped in foil. You can also sauté vegetables, but they tend to absorb the oils, again making them less flavorful in my opinion.
We are so lucky to be able to look up on line any kind of spices and what they’re good with. So, please don’t bore the people at your table with salt and pepper and expect them to be thrilled with your veggies.
I visited Farmers’ Market on Saturday, where I found some great fresh vegetables. We also have the option of growing some of our own food in small gardens. Gardening is a great way to save money, get some exercise and enjoy food so fresh it almost says “thank you” when you comment that it tastes good.
Finally, we have to force ourselves to try some things that we don’t think we like. There is no comparison between frozen and fresh broccoli. Add a bit of lemon or some cheese to your broccoli, and you might just be surprised at how tasty it can be.
I write about this partly because America has a big problem. So many children are overweight in our country. It’s not too late for anybody. I’m not crazy about exercise, but even a half an hour of walking can do a body wonders. Healthier eating, exercise and good common sense can extend one’s life. And that life will be a more pleasant one. Healthy, fit people feel better. It’s not rocket science. It is the best gift you can give your family.
I’m not a fanatic about what to eat and what to avoid. I believe that most foods can be beneficial in moderation. I have noticed that many people judge restaurants by the size of their portions. This is almost a signal that it’s O.K. to eat everything put on your plate. I hate to leave a restaurant or even a home cooked meal feeling overstuffed.
By all means, enjoy your food. That’s really the point of this article. There’s nothing like fresh lettuce right out of the garden, or green beans freshly picked. In the immortal words of Julia Child, “Bon Appetit!”