6 Delicious Vegetable Swaps You Should Try
Pandemic times have felt like Groundhog Day for many of us, especially when it comes to our meals. In fact, a recent survey found that people have, on average, eaten the same meal 28 times since lockdowns began. That's certainly the case for many of us when it comes to our vegetable repertoire. It's easy to get in a rut and buy the same handful of vegetables you're used to cooking. But swapping out your vegetables for some different options can give your meals a tasty makeover, not to mention diversify the nutrients in your diet. Read on to see what vegetables you should try (with some tips for cooking with them), based on the ones you may already like.
If you love potatoes, try taro
Potatoes are hard not to love; their carbiness is so satisfying and there are a million different ways to eat them. Taro root, a staple in various Asian, African and Caribbean cuisines, is similar to potatoes, with a slightly nutty flavor once cooked. Taro root has twice as much fiber as potatoes, and is high in resistant starch. It can be cooked all the same ways as potato: baked, mashed, roasted, boiled and fried. Additionally, taro is often used in Chinese desserts like cakes and as a thickening base for custards. Unlike potato, taro's thick, fibrous skin (which kind of looks like the outside of a coconut) is not edible. Make sure to peel and chop the taro root before you wash off any debris, because it gets slimy as soon as water hits it. Try Food & Wine's recipe for Tuna Steaks with Mustard Dressing and Mashed Taro.
If you love cucumber, try jicama
Love crunchy, hydrating cucumber for your salads? Switch it up and try jicama! While jicama has a slightly sweeter flavor (some describe it as a cross between a pear and potato), it's also 85% water, similar to cucumbers, and has a neutral-enough taste that it can take on the flavor of any dressings or seasonings. Peel jicama and cut it into batons (like fries) to eat raw on its own, seasoned (it's great with Tajín) or with a dip for a refreshing snack. Or, julienne jicama and add it to salads or cold sandwiches. Like cucumbers, jicama can also be cooked—sautéed, boiled, steamed, etc.—but we think the flavor and texture are best experienced raw. Learn more about using jicama in recipes and its health benefits.
If you love zucchini noodles, try kohlrabi noodles
While we love zucchini noodles as a low-carb alternative to pasta, zucchini is far from the only vegetable that works for this purpose. Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family, and it has a slightly sweet, slightly peppery flavor that's great either raw or cooked. Peel the bulb and spiralize it, then sauté the resulting noodles in olive oil for just a couple of minutes. Kohlrabi noodles are great with pesto, but even better with a spicy peanut sauce. Additionally, you can matchstick-cut kohlrabi and add it to slaw, roast it and serve it up with a medley of other roasted root vegetables, or sauté it and add it to pureed broccoli soup.
If you love broccoli, try romanesco
With its bright purple or green color and intricate texture, romanesco is a work of art so visually stunning it might feel wrong to eat. But eat it, you should! Romanesco is part of the brassica family, which also includes broccoli, so it's no wonder the flavors are pretty similar— though romanesco is a bit earthier. Romanesco benefits from light cooking methods; after all, you want to preserve the look and texture. Blanch romanesco florets and make them the star of your crudité. Lightly roast or sauté romanesco and add it to pasta or a warm salad. Or, go all out and roast the whole head, topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.
If you love kale, try dandelion greens
Dandelion greens are a bitter, leafy vegetable high in vitamins A, C and K as well as iron and calcium. This superfood green is a great swap for kale, particularly in recipes that call for braising or sautéing. Pair it with garlic and citrus to balance out the bitterness. Or add it to a greens-and-beans stew. While it can be eaten raw and added to salads, the bitterness can be overwhelming, so if you're not used to it, use a mix of dandelion greens and other greens like baby romaine or spinach to temper the flavor. Try this recipe for Warm Dandelion Greens with Roasted Garlic Dressing.
If you love artichokes, try salsify
Salsify looks similar to parsnips and carrots, but it actually tastes similar to artichoke hearts. Look for salsify that is firm to the touch without any soft spots. Wear gloves when you peel salsify, as it can discolor your hands. Because salsify oxidizes quickly, you'll want to cook it as soon as you peel it. Otherwise, place the stalks in a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice. You can cook salsify however your heart desires, but we love it paired with garlic, potatoes (or taro root!), vegetable broth and plant-based milk for a delicious and healthy pureed soup. You can also make a thicker puree to serve with fish or roast chicken. Try Food & Wine's recipe for Creamy Salsify with Horseradish.