Memories, traditions, and experiences often center around food. We think about this connection more often during the holiday season, but it can be true any time of the year. I vividly remember a grilled ear of corn I had, the vibrant yellow kernels burst with a perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors. I sat on a curb and took in the people, local music, architecture and the aroma of neighboring food carts on a humid afternoon in Thailand. That was over a decade ago, yet whenever I eat a fresh ear of corn, I think about that experience.
Many special occasions tie back to rich dishes and desserts, but this can also be true for vegetables. Food and nutrition professionals can help transform consumers’ experience with vegetables with thoughtful preparation. I sat down with Campbell Executive Chef & Director, Maria Gamble, to discuss simple tips that celebrate and enhance the flavors and textures of veggies so that they can shine this season and beyond.
Make Veggies Craveable
Taste drives most food choices, and in all fairness, veggies can be bland or bitter and often overcooked. If you want your vegetables to compete for a share of your guests’ plates, they need to taste great and be cooked to perfection. How can we make their flavors pop? Chef Maria shared her go-to techniques.
- Reach for fresh lemon juice, parsley, fresh cracked pepper and a dash of salt to make veggies pop
- Add dried herbs early in the cooking process to allow the flavor to develop as they absorb moisture
- Sprinkle fresh cilantro or parsley at the end to finish the veggie dish with a burst of flavor and color
- Pair unfamiliar veggies with a more familiar one – like turnips and beets with sweet potatoes
- Roast veggies to impart a more robust, rich flavor from caramelization and browning
- Individually wrap beets, turnips or sweet potatoes in foil, bake, remove skin, dice and toss in a light dressing to absorb the flavor when warm. They are delicious at room temperature in salads. Note: Beets can act as a natural dye when baking
- Add as little as ¼ cup of Swanson® Chicken Broth to a skillet of olive oil and garlic when sautéing
Texture preferences play a big role in the likability of many foods, including vegetables. For example, rubbery green beans or soggy broccoli can be a real turn off while a beet that’s tender without being mushy can increase likability. Chef Maria shared some of her tips for getting the right texture for everyone at your gatherings this season.
- Amp up your crudités with a variety of vegetables by featuring sliced zucchini, sugar snap peas and blanched green beans, pair with a yogurt-based dressing or dip
- Shred carrots, or other veggies like summer squash, in with prepared pasta sauce to add texture
- Avoid grainy texture with greens like Swiss chard, that grow close to the ground. Let them sit in water for about 2 minutes, then lift, rinse grit from bottom of bowl and repeat about 3 times
- Select starchy veggies like winter squash or sweet potatoes that provide a smooth and creamy texture to puree in a soup or sauce
- Cut veggies in uniform size for roasting or grilling, this promotes even cooking, and thus consistent texture
- Spread veggies in a thin layer across a baking sheet to roast them. It’s better to use two pans if needed because overcrowding will steam, rather than roast your veggies
Make Vegetables Convenient
The holiday season comes with jam-packed schedules filled with parties, shopping, and long to-do lists. You might have more time to carefully prepare vegetables for special celebrations, but the rest of the time people crave convenience. Keeping other forms of vegetables on hand like frozen edamame, canned corn, jarred sauces, vegetable juice, and soups can help people meet daily veggie goals. Maria also gave practical suggestions on how to prepare vegetables including batch cooking, easy ways to incorporate convenient forms into your favorite recipes and more.
- Take time to slice/chop veggies. Keep them in the fridge for snacking, to sauté or toss into a stir-fry another day
- Roast or steam extra veggies to reheat or repurpose throughout the week
- Have frozen veggies like bell peppers as a quick option when the unexpected happens
- Make a large batch of veggie soup by adding chopped veggies to Swanson® Chicken or Vegetable broth, pasta or noodles, cooked, shredded chicken or rinsed, canned beans for a heartier dish
- Increasing vegetable intakes: rationale and systematic review of published interventions
- Ways to Add Fruits & Veggies to Your Holiday Meals
- Cans Get You Cooking®
Help Veggies Shine,
Kate's BioKate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.
Maria's BioMaria Gamble is Executive Chef & Director, Campbell’s Culinary. She is responsible for leading culinary across Campbell creating and sparking innovation through culinary excellence, trend inspiration & translation. Maria has over 20 years working for Campbell’s which includes leading the development of new products across brand portfolios within meals & beverages. Maria is certified by the Culinary Institute of America as Professional Chef Level III and a Certified Chef de Cuisine by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Maria earned her BA in communications from Saint Mary’s College, and AS degree in culinary arts from the Restaurant School in Philadelphia, PA.