Vital Veggies

String Beans with Caramelized Shallot, Rosemary, and Garlic

String Beans with Caramelized Shallot, Rosemary, and Garlic

I can’t imagine any green bean more maligned in American culture than the string bean. The canned versions often resemble a Seattle drizzle and are about as tasty as a one-note piano (salt...salt...salt). The restaurant versions are at least pretty to look at (sometimes), but they’re still bland. I’m here to tell you that string beans can have pizzazz. I start by giving them a special bath: a quick dip in boiling salted water followed by an even faster plunge into a cold pool. This parboiling cooks the beans and brings out their beautiful color.

Sweet Potato and Zuccini Pancakes

Sweet Potato and Zuccini Pancakes

These potato pancakes, unlike the typical holiday fare, are a light delight! Sweet potato, zucchini, onion, egg and spices cooked with just a little olive oil make them especially nourishing, and they reheat beautifully. Shred the basil just before adding it to retain its bright green color. Here’s a convenient way to shred it: Stack the basil leaves, roll them into a cigar shape, and snip it with scissors or cut thin slices with a sharp chef’s knife.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Assorted Toppings

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Assorted Toppings

I always think of baked sweet potatoes as little rafts of nutritious delight. Unto themselves, they’re quite tasty and full of fiber, a wonderful blood sugar regulator. But what they’re best at, at least when they’re baked and the top is slit open, is carrying numerous other healthy ingredients along for the ride. Chopped herbs, chutneys, veggies, nut creams, yogurt…all are great variations (see below). Many people gravitate towards a sweet potato when they feel like eating but aren’t over-the-top hungry. I like the simplicity with which they can be prepared. Bake four, eat one, put the rest in an airtight container, and they reheat in a flash. A great go-to food!

Kale with Delicata Squash and Hazelnuts

Kale with Delicata Squash and Hazelnuts

Getting in the swing of eating veggies is like igniting a pilot light on a stove: it may take several tries, but once it’s lit, the flame burns steadily. My challenge is to present important vegetables—and, none is more vital for brain health than kale—in ways that will kick-start your taste for this superfood. Here, I’ve paired kale with an autumn favorite, delicata squash, along with garlic, red pepper flakes, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to create a dish that’s both a delight to the eyes and the taste buds. The chopped roasted hazelnuts take the entire concoction completely over the top. It’s ablaze with flavor and should leave you burning for more.