Changing the Texture of Food
We eat with our eyes as much as with our stomachs. Color, texture, and presentation are just as important as flavor and nutrients when it comes to satiating hunger. Texture is also a way to sneak in “health” foods you otherwise wouldn’t eat.
For instance, I don’t love carrots. Generally, I like them at the bottom of a roast, soaking up all the fat. Then I love carrots. However, if they’re grated and blanched (boiled for 2 minutes), they are al dente and sweet. With a good dressing (like parsley-caper sauce), I like them a lot! I can also shred them into long, thin strings like the little pile next to your sushi. When mixed in with anything else, I don’t taste the carrots, but I’m getting the nutrients and the visual satiation.
Two tools you can keep in your kitchen to manipulate texture are a mandoline and a grater (or the grater attachment of a food processor).
I love my Japanese Benriner mandoline because its attachments increase my texture options.
Alternatively, a cheese grater can also be used.
The most common vegetables that benefit from texture changes are:
Texture options are:
• Sliced (long and short)
And you thought vegetables were just vegetables!
Sliced carrots can be roasted, sauteed, or boiled. Diced are best boiled, then sauteed with other vegetables or grains (like fried rice or a stir fry). Grated carrots are best boiled just for a couple minutes. Matchstick carrots are good for raw uses, as are carrot noodles. Also, large carrots taste woody; small carrots are sweet. If you’re looking for a raw or lightly cooked variation, use small carrots.
Raw beets can be grated; otherwise, it’s easiest to roast or boil them whole, then slice or dice them.
Zucchini is popular raw as noodles, grated, and sliced.
Kohlrabi may be new to you—it’s not a common vegetable, and it tastes a little like turnip+broccoli+cabbage. If you like any of these, you’ll like kohlrabi. It’s pretty mild, so even if you’re unsure, it’s worth trying once. Kohlrabi has to be peeled, then it can be sliced, diced, pureed, or grated. It can be left raw or cooked in a number of ways.
Then there’s the cabbage family. I particularly find white and red cabbage and Brussels sprouts the most flavorful. Brussels sprouts are commonly quartered and roasted in simple olive oil, salt, and pepper, but did you know you can shred them into a slaw? It’s very similar to coleslaw. How about a dry slaw with just grated pecorino cheese and chopped walnuts? Very French/Italian.
When cabbage is thinly sliced, like for a slaw, it can easily be eaten raw. A light steam makes it a little softer, and sauteeing it in a little water, wine, or stock turns it into a hearty braise.
Point being, you have options. Dozens of options.
With these options, you can now make a beautiful buddha bowl. Combine a grain with 1-2 vegetables and drizzle a savory dressing. You’ve got a nutrient-packed meal.
To get a feel for how you like what, I recommend buying just one vegetable and experimenting with a texture. When eating out, pay attention to the vegetable side dishes or how a chef may present vegetables to you in an entree. Restaurants are a wonderful place to get inspiration for your home-cooked meals.
Tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to techniques for getting the most out of your cooking. You’ve made the effort, now how can you stretch it out?
Recommended book by Highbrow
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