MARIE AND ME


When I was co-hosting The Food Guy and Marcy Show with Guy Fieri, I coined a few phrases that are still part of my culinary lexicon – homecooker and vegetablist.
I refer to myself as a homecooker to indicate that I’m not a gourmet chef although I am a bit more skilled than the average home cook. Vegetablist conveys my commitment to eating fifty-percent vegetables every day. My two worlds converged last week when I had the opportunity to interview Marie Simmons, author of Fresh and Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal.

Marie is a Julia Child and James Beard award-winning writer, cooking teacher and long time columnist for Bon Appétit magazine. You may recognize her from Sur La Table’s Things Cooks Love: Implements, Ingredients, Recipes. In her newest release, she brings us 150 vibrant vegetarian and vegan recipes along with tips and techniques for success. The tip that stunned me was learning that the fresher the vegetable, the faster it cooks. Why? There’s more water in recently plucked veggies than there is in veggies sitting in the supermarket for a week or more.

I joined Marie in the kitchen and prepared one of her signature vegetable side dishes that make a meal. She noted that depending on the season, frozen vegetables are acceptable and sometimes preferred. This recipe calls for both frozen peas and frozen artichokes hearts.

Spring Vegetable Sauté

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bag (12 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts, partially thawed, blotted dry
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup ¼-inch wedges shallots
1 garlic clove, sliced paper thin
1 cup thin diagonal slices tender carrots (from 1 -2 carrots)
1 cup 1-inch length slender green beans (about 4 ounces)
12 ounces slender asparagus, peeled it large, cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths (3 cups)
1 cup frozen petite peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint
Lemon wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. When it is hot enough to sizzle a piece of artichoke, add the artichokes, cut sides down, and cook over medium heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper and brown the other sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the browned artichokes to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the shallots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, over low heat until sizzling. Add the carrots, green beans and ¼ cup water. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and a grinding of black pepper and cook, covered, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and peas and cook, stirring, uncovered, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the artichokes and dill and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the artichokes are heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over each serving.

I had three mouthwatering servings and still felt light. That’s the beauty of inspired vegetarian cookery.

The older I get, the more conscious I am of my health and weight, the more I want to eat the type of food that Marie Simmons shares in Fresh and Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal. The recipes are easy to follow and have plenty of room for improvisation and substitution. They’re so creative, you won’t miss the meat and you’ll soon be craving veggies for every meal.

Fresh and Fast Vegetarian: Recipes That Make a Meal was released this week. Be sure and pick one up because there’s always room for one more cookbook in the collection!