Thursday, September 9, 2010
How to torture a vegetable
The above photograph is how I torture a vegetable: slice it up, grill it until it's slightly charred. Or boiled, like the tomato sauce. But that's a fruit.
And the end result of this torture is usually something good and tasty to eat: calzone, in this case. Curry, in others, and perhaps some kind of spicy and yummy stir-fry. Or maybe even some soup. Point is, there are many different ways to torment a vegetable and extract all of their scrumptious flavors until they scream for mercy--and then you season them and it makes you, your tongue, and your tummy quite happy.
Unless you're Dutch, of course.
I'll save the phenomenom of stamppot for a later post. Stamppot is sort of like mac 'n cheese from a box--it's doesn't taste like anything remarkable, it is slightly more nutritious than what comes out of a blue box, but it is quite filling and, dare I say, wholesome, in a comfort-food kind of way.
No, the Dutch know of only one method to bestow pain upon their vegetables: boil the living crap out of them. Literally--all of the vitamins escape into the water used, along with all of the flavor, and what you are left with is a soupy, sodden, mass of cellulose that might still be green if you haven't overdone it. If you visit a house where vegetables are prepared in the traditional way, that is what you will get, which probably explains the popularity of brussel sprouts: they're the one vegetable that can hold their shape against such torture, although their flavor is still wanting.
My boyfriend is a bit of a gourmand, but even so he still gets a hankering for veggies done the old-fashioned way. Fortunately his brother-in-law (a chef) has cured him of the heresy that all veggies must be boiled to death, purgatory, hell, and redemption, and merely needs to be boiled to death. But upon finishing the cooking, he will still toss the vegetables in a smidge of butter...and serve them with the nutmeg nut and grater.
It's an odd combination, but for some vegetables (beans) it is okay. As in, it's not an inedible combination. I don't know if this method of preparing vegetables is as popular as it used to be; certainly the amount of exotic produce available these days is much more extensive and the Albert Heijn makes a killing recommending interesting things to do with courgettes in their magazine (which is free) and pushing their line of products (which are not). But apparently enough people still eat brussel sprouts to make them worth selling.
Interestingly: my favorite way of preparing brussel sprouts is to cut them in half and lay them, cut side down, in a pan, over medium meat (I think, certainly higher than low heat but less than "mini-flamethrower"), for about 15-20 minutes, or however long it takes for the bottoms to singe--there should be a brown spot in the center of each sprout. A little salt, a little pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar--brussel sprouts never tasted so good. And for some reason, my boyfriend can't stand it.