For too many years, I have eaten overcooked, soft, colourless vegetables from people who either do not know how to cook vegetables or who could not care less. Boiled broccoli or cauliflower, bland, no charring, the most unappetising of them all. “Tradition” they say when you tell them to cook it differently, tradition dictates that you do it this way. I do not care, their sentiment tells me, about your preferences.
So many vegetables boiled, bland, mushy, sulphuric, and I need to eat them. If you could take a blender to them, they would turn into soup. You only cook vegetables that soft if you want soup, that is a fact. Soft mushy vegetables are for soup (or children). Vegetables need crunch, it needs texture, it needs charring, it needs respect!!
Charring vegetables unlocks a totally different flavour profile. A savoury sweetness, a rich flavourful surprise. Vegetable candy, one might say. Charring vegetables caramelises the sugar and unlocks hidden flavours. Mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, every root vegetable or starchy one, they need extreme heat, they need texture, they need love.
Most steak enthusiasts take so much care in cooking their steaks. Butter basting, garlic, and thyme. Reverse sear, pan seared, open-air grilling. There are so many ways.
Yet vegetables are always secondary, subsidiary, treated as a side dish. True, some people go beyond the normal folk to appreciate vegetables, but these dishes always remain side dishes, ones you eat with a meal consisting of something else as the star.
Cook your vegetables like a steak.
Butter/Coconut oil bastings, crosshatch scoring, extreme heat, cast iron pan.
Treat your vegetables like a steak.
Get the cast iron pan ripping hot.
Char both sides.
Turn down the heat.
Add butter/coconut oil, garlic, thyme, anything fancy.
Baste until tender.
Treat your vegetables like a steak. Respect them, treat them like a steak.
Vegetables are cheaper than meat, yet they cook similarly. Depending on how they are treated and prepared, they are exactly the same. Society deems vegetables lesser because it is cheaper, because they just always had, because for some reason the status of meat is higher. Obviously, considering factors beyond the mere appreciation of food calls for a different argument, but this manifesto is not about health or cultural reasons. This manifesto is about cooking vegetables like a steak to unlock their full potential.
Charred, crispy, tender, crunchy, savoury, sweet, caramelised, rich, everything you could ask for in a dish. Treating vegetables like a steak, scoring them, basting them with hot aromatic oil, unlocks a flavour profile beyond this world. And the best thing about it all is that every vegetable is suitable for this treatment. Every vegetable deserves this love, this care, this appreciation.
Gone are the days of bland boiled vegetables. Gone are the days of mushy soup-like vegetables. Gone are the days of swallowing vegetables like medicine because you must, for the sake of tradition. Gone are the days of missing the opportunity to create something special, something unique, something that transcends dull- and plainness.
Here is the opportunity to treat vegetables like we should, to appreciate what they have to offer. Not everyone will agree, some might even prefer the mush bland texture and taste, some might even prefer the watery boiled vegetables. To each their own. But exactly that, to each their own. To me, vegetables should be charred, caramelised, tender yet crunchy-crispy edged, basted in copious amounts of flavoured oil.
Treat your vegetables like a steak, and it will return the favour with tremendously delicious flavour.
Postscriptum, To Each Their Own
The sword or knife cuts both ways. People have their own preferences, and that is how it should be. But that means that I do not have to like overcooked soft boiled bland and plain vegetables. Charring vegetables and eating them what some people would consider raw is my preference. If someone has never had charred butternut, they are missing out, in my opinion of course. If someone has never had charred broccoli with some lemon or lime juice and browned butter, they are missing out, in my opinion of course. Treating vegetables with respect, like a meat lover would treat their very expensive cut of meat with respect, is in my opinion the way to cook vegetables. It takes time, it costs more, it might not be as healthy, but life is short, and we deserve to have nice food.
It just frustrates me, even though I never say it nor show it, when people boil, or overcook vegetables and they do not even char it. I have had so many potato bake type dishes in which the potatoes are cooked but they are bland, plain, no charring, no flavour beyond the potato flavour. And again, to each their own, some people prefer this. I just do not share that opinion. I prefer crispy charred potato and if it gets cheese, broiled charred crispy cheese. I also cannot stand broccoli and cauliflower that gets boiled to mush; as soon as you put it in your mouth, it disintegrates. I cannot stand that because it feels like soup. But I prefer having soup when I am having soup. Vegetable have gotten a bad reputation because people do not cook it right, in my opinion. Vegetables, like steaks and meat, need high heat, oil, and charring. It should not be boiled, it should not be over cooked, it should be respected. Texture in vegetables is so important, disrespect texture and you have nothing to work with.
If I could eat vegetables like this for the rest of my life, I would. It takes time and effort, but it is worth every second of it. (My girlfriend has already told me that we are having vegetables like this for lunch every day from now on. And she does not even like vegetables all that much.)
With all that said, this remains my opinion, and everyone has the right to cook their food the way they like.
All of the writings in this post are my own. The opinions in this post are also my own. The photographs are also my own, taken with my Nikon D300.