Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Recipes My Daughter Likes: Hearty Vegetable Skillet

Or, How to have a festive meal any night of the week with little thought or measuring involved

I learned to make this dish by watching my daughter at work in the kitchen. My daughter has been a vegetarian since high school, but initially her diet was heavy on beans, rice, bread, pasta and cheese. I used to tell her that if she was going to be a vegetarian, she really needed to eat more vegetables. This year, after much research, she has decided to adopt a vegan diet. I was pleased to see when she came home to visit that she was indeed eating a healthy variety of vegetables.

Since we weren’t accustomed to vegan cooking, we told her she would need to do her own meal preparations while she was home. I was impressed to see how she could quickly prepare a healthy and filling meal in one skillet on the stove. She never uses oil to cook with, but instead uses a vegetable broth, usually miso.

Here is how you, too, can enjoy a healthy and festive meal:


Whatever vegetables you have on hand
Whatever spices you have in the cupboard
Any desired additions from the pantry
Vegetable Bouillon 


Wash and chop vegetables
Place into skillet with bouillon
Simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes

And here is how I did it:

On the last night she was home before driving back to grad school, our daughter was busy packing and instead of going out to eat on our last night together, I decided I would prepare a dish using her method of cooking.

These are the vegetables I had in the refrigerator:

One onion
Two small yellow squash
One small sweet potato
The remaining inner stalks of some bok choy
Half a head of napa cabbage
Four radishes
Half a stalk of broccoli
A handful of snow peas

For the broth I used vegetable bouillon and dry sherry (you can't go wrong with sherry!). You want to use just enough liquid to allow the vegetables to steam without sticking to the pan, but not so much that it becomes soupy.

I decided ahead of time that I would serve these vegetables over rice, so I began the rice preparation first. There are many varieties of rice available these days. Brown rice is always a healthy option. One of my favorites is basmati rice, available as either a white rice or a brown rice. White basmati rice is supposedly healthier than regular white rice, and it has a nice flavor. There are also many other varieties of whole grain rice, including Japanese black rice which is a very interesting and hearty addition to any vegetable cuisine. On this night, I chose a whole grain mixed variety by Lundberg called “Countrywild Rice” which contains long grain brown rice, whole grain Wehani rice, and whole grain black Japonica rice. Since it takes about 45 minutes to cook, I started it before I began the vegetable preparation.

In preparing the vegetables, after rinsing everything I diced the onion and then chopped the sweet potato into a variety of small shapes (cubes and slices) so that it would cook quickly. I then did the same with the squash and radishes. I chopped some broccoli florets, trimmed and snipped the snow peas and I was ready to go. I had some vegetable bouillon on hand, so I made a cup of vegetable broth, using about half a cup to heat in the skillet. I began with the onions and sweet potato, letting them cook for a few minutes, then added the squash and radishes. I then added some cooking sherry to the broth in the skillet and a couple of tablespoons of Herbs de Provence for the seasoning. I covered the skillet and let all of this simmer for a few more minutes and added the bok choy and napa cabbage last since they would not require as much cooking as the other vegetables.  I let all of this steam, covered in the skillet, for a few more minutes until the greens were tender.

The end result was a colorful and flavorful dish served over whole grain rice. My daughter liked it (for which I was thankful since this was my first attempt at using her own cooking method). She thought the bok choy, napa cabbage and rice gave it a Chinese cuisine appearance. Of course, the combination of ingredients is endless. You can use quartered new potatoes, Brussels sprouts, halved (chopping larger vegetables allows them to cook more quickly), or any vegetable you enjoy. You could even through in a few fresh field peas or green beans.Mushrooms would always be a nice addition as well. This is a dish you can really experiment with.

An Omnivore Alternative

For omnivores, I have made a French country dish a that follows a similar method of cooking. First you quarter a chicken and brown each piece on both sides in a large skillet using some olive oil. Remove the chicken to another plate, wipe excess oil from the skillet then take whatever vegetables you have on hand and place them in the skillet.  Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, add about a cup of red wine and whatever seasonings you prefer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

So next time you wonder what's for dinner, just open up the fridge, see what's in  there (produce-wise, that is) and throw it in the skillet.


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