By Amanda Li, RD
Have you ever met a child who would eat cucumbers cut into half-moons, but wouldn’t eat them if they were cut into sticks? Or what about people who can clean up a bowl of guacamole but won’t touch a slice of avocado? I certainly have! How a vegetable or a fruit is prepared can determine its tastiness and overall enjoyment! Preparation goes beyond just the cooking method – it starts with your knife cutting techniques. Take for example, a kiwi – when it’s cut into thin slices crosswise, you get a beautiful intricate pattern that almost looks too pretty to consume, and it will make for such a stunning edible garnish for salads and beverages. However, when it’s cut lengthwise into wedges, it resembles more like a common tomato. It will still taste good, but you lose the aesthetic appeal.
Let’s look at another example – Brussels sprouts. Would you rather have them steamed whole or halved and roasted in the oven? I think the answer is pretty easy. When you slice the Brussels sprouts, it allows bitter compounds known as glucosinolates to be released. In addition, roasting or frying creates the best flavour, because it caramelizes the outside while maintaining a firm and nutty interior, versus a soggy mush when over steamed or boiled. If you have been scarred by poorly prepared Brussels sprouts in the past, try out these simple pan-roasted Brussels sprouts.
Now, who can forget the humble cauliflower? Another vegetable that often gets a bad rep, as it can be pretty mushy when overcooked and served as a pile of pale mush. The good news is that there are so many interesting ways to transform cauliflower. Using a box grater or food processor, you can make “riced” cauliflower which can then be used in fried rice or secretly added into taco meat filling or even used as a base for gluten-free English muffins. Cauliflower cut into florets can be made into light and crispy baked bites in the oven or air-fryer. For those who love a creamy mashed potato, why not try swapping half of the potatoes with cauliflower florets? Don’t knock it until you try this recipe.
Lastly, what about tacos? Corn and flour tortillas will always be a staple, no doubt about that, but why not try a new vessel for your favourite beef, pork or fish filling? Boston or Bibb lettuce leaves are my personal favourites, and runner ups include endive, roasted halved peppers and grilled zucchini or eggplant boats!
Don’t limit yourself in the kitchen! If you don’t find yourself head over heels with one type of knife cut or cooking method for a vegetable or fruit, try another. You may be surprised how a 45-degree turn of your knife before slicing can make such a difference to your taste buds!
Amanda Li is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian, owner of Wellness Simplified, Instructor at George Brown College and a foodie at heart.