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Most Intimidating Foods to Prepare

Don’t let these 11 dishes deter you. Learn to cook like a chef, from a chef.

EGGPLANT
What's to fear? The color—what else do you eat that’s this purple? They’re also weirdly shaped and can be really slimy on the inside if you prepare them wrong.

Get over it: Make sure you buy the right fruit. Always pick smaller eggplants. Full-size ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter. Choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that’s heavy for its size; avoid those with soft or brown spots. Gently push the middle with your thumb. If the flesh gives slightly but then bounces back, it’s ripe. If the indentation remains, it’s overripe and the insides will be mushy. The easiest way to prep an eggplant is to cut it in slices and grill it. For a quick eggplant parm, dip the slices in egg and bread crumbs, then bake with pasta sauce and cheese.

SQUASH
What's to fear? The outer layer. “Acorn and butternut squash are like the ‘turtles’ of the vegetable world, with a hard shell that a lot of people don’t know what to do with,” Allen says.

Get over it: Whip out the great big cleaver that you never use. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and fibrous stuff, put it on a baking sheet, salt and pepper, and roast it for an hour, which enhances its natural sweetness. Let it cool, scoop the inside into a food processor, and purée it for a simple side. Add chicken stock and simmer, and you’ve got a really hearty soup with a sweet, silky texture.

BEETS
What's to fear? Blame moms everywhere for forcing bland beets from a can on their impressionable kids. Another major turnoff: the color. “But they’re nice to have in your playbook,” Allen says. “And they add a natural sweetness to a dish. They’re a vegetable that lasts into the winter.”

Get over it: If you don’t like the soft texture of canned beets, try cooking some fresh ones. The payoff’s worth it. Beets are high in potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. The easiest way to prepare them is roasting. Wrap whole beets in foil with a little bit of olive oil around them, just like you would a potato. Then bake for about an hour at 400°. When they come out, the skins will slip off. Eat ’em as is or dice and mix with other veggies or toss into a salad for a flavorful kick.

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