Photo: Jesse Chehak
If the "eat your vegetables" movement had a matriarch, Deborah Madison would be she. Such is her love for these earthly delights that she stops mid-conversation to make a philosophical point: "There's something really wrong with our culture when we think—and many people do—'We have to get fruits and vegetables in.' Let's look at it as pleasure." We asked her for advice on making fruits and vegetables less about reaching a daily tally and more about enjoying.
- Build an edible still life. "Keep a big bowl of tangerines, apples, or pears on the table instead of hidden in fruit drawers or covered baskets. If you and your family see the fruit more often, you'll get into the habit of reaching for it. Plus, like a vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit can be as beautiful as art."
- Put some soup on. "Soups are among the easiest, most inexpensive, and quickest things to make, especially with the bounty of winter vegetables—winter squash, Jerusalem artichoke, potato, carrot, parsnip, and mixtures of all those vegetables. They're healthy, inexpensive, and filling. Plus, you can make a big batch and save them for leftovers. They're always better reheated."
- Switch things up with a puree. "Purees, like soups, are versatile and easy to improvise with a variety of ingredients. But they're thicker and creamier for a more luxurious meal. Try something familiar to you first—mashed potatoes. Then throw in another component—parsnips, celery root, chopped parsley, cabbage, scallions, or leeks. Puree, heat, and season to taste."
- Roast vegetables for unbelievably rich flavor. "Winter vegetables tend to have a lot of sugar, so they caramelize nicely. Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut the vegetables into uniform chunks; toss with a little olive oil so they don't dry out during cooking; and season with salt, pepper, and any other spices you'd like. Spread the chunks onto a cookie sheet, and slide it into the oven. Be sure to leave lots of room around the pieces so they caramelize and don't steam."
- Show sweet potatoes some love. "And not just the marshmallow-topped variety. Sweet potatoes are delicious mashed, steamed, pureed, and even roasted. Just as they are, they're naturally sweet and delicate. A sweet potato and salad make a great winter meal."
- Rediscover celery. "Celery is inexpensive, easy to prep, and excellent salad material—especially in winter, when lettuce isn't so grand. Use it in a lightened-up Waldorf salad. Or toss some celery chunks with sliced pears or apples. Drizzle the mixture with a little olive oil or vinaigrette and a sprinkle of blue cheese. It makes a great, light lunch."
- Think beyond fresh in winter. "Dried fruit is a great resource in the year's cold days, when the fruit selection may be a little sad. It's a ready-made dessert, or you can chop some up and top frozen yogurt or oatmeal with it."