Top | The Vegetable Challenge

It's not baby food

(post, Carrie Floyd)

One way to work more vegetables into your daily diet is to turn them into vegetable purées. Unfortunately, the word "vegetable" coupled with the word "purée" conjures up images of baby food, which does little to perk up my appetite. 


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What's in a name? Everything. Call those pulverized vegetables something else — pesto, dip or spread, cream of anything soup, baba ganoush — and I'll try it. 

A bonanza of eggplant from my CSA this week prompted me to make baba ganoush. First I pricked four eggplants with a fork, then roasted them at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes until they were soft and squishy. Once they cooled, I pulled the flesh from the skins and puréed it in a blender with a few garlic cloves, a heaping soup-spoonful of tahini (a purée of roasted sesame seeds), a glug of olive oil, plenty of salt, and the fresh juice of three lemons.

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It's not pretty, but it's delicious. No, it doesn't really compare to the exquisitely smoky baba ganoush served at Ya Hala, my neighborhood Middle Eastern restaurant, but it's a fine-tasting dip in and of itself. 

And boy, does it satisfy the goal of eating enough vegetables in a day, or even in a single meal, such as the lunch I made of homemade baba ganoush and a heaping plate of cut-up veggies (carrots, fennel, peppers, cukes). 

It's also good on a sandwich with grilled chicken and sautéed greens. After school, it makes a great snack with whole-grain pita chips. 

The other purée I've been enjoying is the pesto I made a couple of weeks ago. Though I followed a pretty typical recipe — basil, toasted pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil — at the suggestion of a friend, I decided to add spinach to the mix. I made a huge batch for the freezer (I always add freshly grated Parmesan to the pesto once it's thawed), but have already dipped into our winter allotment. 

Honestly, I can't taste the spinach, though it does make the pesto a brighter green. I wasn't trying to be sneaky by adding spinach; I just wanted to up the vegetable quotient for those nights when dinner consists of a bowl of pasta and pesto. 

As for the question of sneaking in vegetables (particularly when it comes to kids), I like how Mark Bittman addresses the topic in his video on how to make what he calls "vegetable spreads."

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