Health Team

Executive chef shares veggie-cooking tips

Posted February 4, 2011 12:53 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2011 3:19 p.m. EST

— Many Americans don't get the recommended five to 13 servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

Scott Crawford, executive chef of the Herons restaurant at The Umstead Spa and Hotel in Cary, shared quick, easy and healthy ways to make vegetables a food to look forward to.

Blanching, sauteing or served raw in a salad are good ways to prepare vegetables, he recommended.

For one dish, Crawford cuts baby carrots and candy-cane beets with a mandolin slicer to make them thin and easy to bite. He dresses them with a homemade vinaigrette that's three parts olive oil and one part wine vinegar.

Sauteing takes a hot pan and extra virgin olive oil. Thin-cut purple potatoes, squash and turnip cook quickly – just a minute on the burner.

Seasoning them with sea salt or butter is optional. "We're just sort of glazing the vegetables with a little butter," Crawford said.

They can be garnished with toasted hazelnuts, pecorino cheese, fresh sage and diced tomato.

"Now we have a lot of color, a lot of freshness and a very healthy choice," Crawford said.

Blanching involves boiling vegetables in salted water for two minutes. Cook for longer for softer vegetables, and the salt is optional. Season with virgin olive oil and good-quality salt.

"The more you cook vegetables, the more nutrients you lose," Crawford said.

People with high blood pressure or heart problems should limit their salt intake. Using a lot of fresh herbs can be an alternative. Grow an herb garden inside or outside.

To keep an eye on your weight, use low-calorie butter substitutes. Olive oil is healthy and adds flavor to food, but watch your overall fat intake.

Vegetables and fruit should take up at least half of the space on your plate.