5 Tips for Veggies and Fruit-Focused Meals

Many home cooks view vegetables as a side dish and often as an afterthought, but I think summer is the perfect time to lighten up meals and go full-on veggie.

frankel veggies image

You have likely heard that eating a vegetarian diet is healthier than a meat-eating one. While there is no shortage of new products on the market offering options for those seeking a plant-based diet, switching diets and satisfying every member of your household can be challenging and confusing. 

Many home cooks view vegetables as a side dish and often as an afterthought, but I think summer is the perfect time to lighten up meals and go full-on veggie. As a chef, I get excited by the variety of vegetables and fruits, when each season brings a new crop of possibilities. While I do enjoy cooking meats and fishes, there is not a lot of variety. Vegetables, in every stage of growth, from budded plant to harvest ready full grown, have endless combinations.  

Whether you decide to go completely plant-based or just a meal here and there, here are five tips for making vegetables and fruit meals satisfying and delicious.

  1. Combine protein and fiber in your meals. Grain bowls are a family-friendly dinner option. Serve whole, unprocessed grains such as brown rice, farro, and bulgur with mix-ins such as sautéed peppers, zucchini, spinach, and root vegetables. Let everyone top their own bowl with chopped olives, chick peas, tomatoes, raisins, and fresh herbs. 

  2. Eat the rainbow. Choose a variety of vegetables and fruits that are colorful and in-season. The foods will taste more flavorful and will have more nutrients.

  3. Add texture. Topping dishes with crunchy nuts, seeds, or chewy dates and raisins adds interest and pops of flavor. This is the fun part of garnishing your food. Let your family add their own favorite touches. They will enjoy dinner so much more when they have had a chance to customize the meal.

  4. Add umami. Umami is the fifth flavor, discovered by a Japanese scientist. it is the savory flavor found in mushrooms, parmesan cheese, black olives, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes. Adding foods rich in umami flavors makes dishes deeply flavored and rich.

  5. Add char! Deeply roasting, sautéing, or grilling vegetables and fruits intensifies flavors. Roasted tomatoes are so much more interesting and mouthwatering than raw tomatoes. Roasted grapes and grilled strawberries are jammy and flavor-packed. 

Mushroom, Poblano, and Crispy Fingerling Potato Tacos

Tacos are my favorite way of letting everyone at the table find their happy place. I like to prep the veggies and then let everyone make their own taco-licious plates.

These flavor-packed veggies combine to offer texture, umami flavor, and a teensy bit of heat. I like to add a bowl of tangy guacamole as a topping and a smoky mayo, and let everyone go to it. Serve with chewy, brown rice and you have a full, healthy, and delicious meal. 

Serves 4

  • 8 ounces fingerling potatoes, sliced very thinly
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated with a microplane
  • 2 large portabella mushrooms, stemmed and gills removed
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded, then thinly sliced
  • 8 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  1. Slice potatoes very thinly (about ¼ inch thick) lengthwise, with a mandolin or sharp knife. Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on lined sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes.
  2. Slice portabellas very thinly (about ¼ inch thick) and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Add to sheet pan with potatoes. Continue roasting for an additional 20 minutes until the potatoes are crispy and the mushrooms are browned and beginning to crisp up on the edges.
  3. Sprinkle hot potatoes and mushrooms with grated garlic and set aside.
  4. Heat tortillas over a burner to slightly char and soften or in an oven. Wrap in a towel to keep warm.
  5. Heat potatoes, mushrooms, and poblano peppers. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Chipotle Mayo

  • 1/3 cup best quality mayo; I like a product made with avocado oil (either homemade or purchased)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or canned chipotle sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplate

Whisk mayo, chipotle powder, and grated garlic.

Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocadoes, peeled, pitted, and smashed with a fork to create a chunky pulp
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Combine avocadoes, shallot, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Laura Frankel is a kosher chef and author. Previously, she was the Culinary Director for Jamie Geller's Test Kitchen and Kosher Network International. Frankel is the author of two Jewish cookbooks, with a third forthcoming. She is the founder of Shallots Restaurant in Chicago, Skokie, and New York, and served as Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck. 




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