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!

About Amanda

Amanda Li is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian, owner of Wellness Simplified, Instructor at George Brown College and a foodie at heart.

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When I toss romaine hearts into my shopping cart, chances are I'm heading home to make my family’s favourite salad. Every cook should know the joy of crafting a true Caesar salad while avoiding the also-ran dressings at the supermarket that never quite measure up to the real thing. Over time we’ve experimented with lots of additional flavours in this salad but, more often than not, I toss in lots of fresh basil leaves and brightly flavoured cherry tomatoes. What a great way to fill Half Your Plate! SERVES 4 TO 6 For the croutons 1 baguette, cut into large bite-sized cubes 1/4 cup (60 mL) of water 1/4 cup (60 mL) of your best olive oil For the dressing 6 thick slices of bacon, finely cut 1/4 cup (60 mL) of extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup (60 mL) of Dijon mustard 4 cloves of garlic a full 2-ounce (50 g) can of anchovies the zest and juice of 2 lemons 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of honey a dash or two of your favourite hot sauce For the salad 3 hearts of romaine lettuce, rinsed and sliced into bite sized pieces 1 large bunch of basil leaves 2-ounces or so of Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved into thin pieces with a vegetable peeler 1 pound of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Turn on your convection fan if you have one. Begin with the croutons. Sprinkle the bread cubes with water and toss until evenly absorbed. Continue tossing with the oil until it too is absorbed. Spread the works out on a baking tray and bake until the croutons are crispy, crunchy and thoroughly golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool while you prepare the rest of the salad. Make the dressing. Toss the bacon and a big splash of water into a pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the bacon is fully browned and evenly crispy, 10 minutes or so. Strain off the bacon bits and reserve for garnishing. Reserve all, some or none of the tasty fat. Measure the oil, Dijon, garlic, anchovies, lemon zest and juice, honey and hot sauce into your blender or food processor. Add the reserved bacon fat. Purée until smooth. Make the salad. In a large salad bowl toss together the romaine leaves, basil leaves, croutons and tomatoes. Pour in the dressing and toss the works until the salad is evenly dressed. Top with the bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve and share! Freestyle Flavour You can easily elevate this salad into an entire meal by adding lots of your favourite protein. Try grilling off a few chicken breasts and thinly slicing them into the works. A filet or two of salmon, grilled steak, pork tenderloin, even chunks of tofu can be added for a full protein kick.
Basil Caesar Salad

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