Kick-start the journey to a healthier you with new ways to enjoy vegetables more often.
Credit: Photo: Erin Kunkel

Tara Duggan didn't spend her college summers on beaches or partying with friends. She wasn't taking classes or buried in books, either. Instead, she used that time to explore food on a global scale. Duggan's military father transferred to Italy when she was in college, so she spent a lot of time exploring international cuisines during summer visits. "My parents really love to eat and travel, and we ate out a lot. I'd then go buy local ingredients and try to re-create the dishes at home," she says. The family ate plenty of pizza and pasta, of course, but Duggan says she also discovered an entirely new world: vegetables.

"Italy, especially southern Italy, puts a lot of focus on vegetables and using all the different vegetable parts," she says. Previously, in Duggan's eyes, "vegetables were kind of a side thought, something you were duty-bound to eat. But all of a sudden, I realized vegetables could be really delicious and have unique qualities and flavors."

After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley in 1994, Duggan settled in San Francisco and started a career in travel journalism. Eventually, however, she felt the lure of the food world again, so she went to culinary school and soon landed at the San Francisco Chronicle as a food writer and recipe developer. She also covered farms and farmers' markets, which were quickly growing in popularity in California and around the country. Spending time on farms, she says, lets you see how uniquely wonderful each vegetable or fruit is. "When you see how much work goes into them, you don't want to waste them," she says. We asked Duggan to share her favorite ways for making the most out of fresh vegetables.

Tara’s 3 Tips For Getting More From Veggies

  • Take it from the top. "You can use beet tops instead of Swiss chard. They're very similar. And carrot tops taste a lot like parsley, so I use them in a delicious riff on salsa verde. It's great on roasted veggies in the winter."
  • Roast 'Em. Roasting veggies is pretty low-maintenance. "Throw them in the oven, and let them cook. I find that with boiling you can quickly overdo it. But with roasted vegetables, even slightly overdone is still delicious."
  • Forget the Peel. "Try leaving the peel in place when you roast squash. The skins get dehydrated in the oven, so they turn crispy and are perfectly edible. Younger butternut squash is great for this. The smaller ones are more of a cylinder; they don't have a bulb yet. You can slice the squash into rounds and roast at high heat."

Try Tara's Recipes: