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Part 2: Veggie and spice pairings

If the veggie aisle at the supermarket or a trip to the farmer’s market leaves you flummoxed wondering how to transform simple produce into something spectacular, we’ve got you covered

While salt and pepper are always perfectly fine as seasoning options, stepping outside the box can help add dimension to your veggie dishes – and might have you thinking about going vegetarian, because suddenly, those veggies are just so delicious.

Peruse your spice rack or kitchen herb garden for inspiration, or try the following ideas to make sure even the kids start eating their veggies.

Asparagus. The hint of lemon in coriander makes it a perfect pairing with asparagus. Drizzle freshly-washed stalks with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, then top with coriander to taste. Toss to coat stalks evenly and roast at high heat until asparagus tips begin to caramelize.

Eggplant. Creamy eggplant soaks up the flavors of everything it is cooked with, so it can be paired with many different spices. Basil, cumin, oregano or Herbs de Provence (a spice mixture that includes dried lavender) are perfect options, but curry and cumin will give the versatile veggie a Middle Eastern flair.

Cucumbers. The best part of summer – aside from the fresh tomatoes still warm from the summer sun – is slicing a juicy, crisp cucumber to serve as a side. Top with a sprinkle of salt and some minced dill, and you have a simple yet perfect side salad to pair with a sandwich in place of greasy fries.

Peas. Mint pairs perfectly with the sweetness of fresh peas, but tarragon has a licorice flavor that is an interesting swap. Add minced leaves to cooked peas for a delicious side.

Mushrooms. While mushrooms on their own are perfect sautéed in a bit of butter or olive oil with just a pinch of salt, thyme leaves enhance the earthiness of the mushroom, deepening the flavor.

Onions. Sautéed onions make a beautiful base for French onion soup, and a little sweetness brings out the flavor as the onions brown and cook down. In place of sugar, try toasted, crushed fennel seeds to flavor the onions without unnecessary sugar.

Tomatoes. While basil is a standard pairing with tomatoes – especially delicious with mozzarella cheese and olive oil as part of a caprese salad – there are other spice options that are well suited to the acidity of the tomato. When making sauce, try oregano to enhance to brightness of the fruit. Toss freshly-diced tomatoes with chopped cilantro, minced onion and minced serrano peppers for a perfect pico de gallo. Pair it with pork or chicken seasoned with cumin to give your meal an authentic south-of-the-border flavor.

Corn. While corn on the cob is perfect with a bit of salt and pepper – or the touch of cayenne paired with Cotija cheese that flavors Mexican street corn – off the cob, corn pairs perfectly with basil. Grill a few cobs of corn and cut kernels off the cob. Add diced tomatoes, fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with tuna steaks or salmon filets.


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