By Luc Fabing
I used to see veggies through a very narrow lens. I always saw vegetables as a light, healthy side dish, always subservient to a meat or starch; or as one small ingredient, requiring numerous others to make a complete dish. However, through the years, as my understanding of cooking grew and my exposure to different recipes expanded, I began to realize that veggies can be the star of the show. Just a few simple spices can work wonders toward making your vegetables robust and delicious, all on their own.
A mainstay in East Asian cuisine, soy sauce is much more versatile than many people realize. Soy sauce can be used as an all purpose seasoning for almost any vegetable. Its salty, savory qualities create a bolder, full flavor that can make the simplest veggies stand proudly on their own. A simple marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, and black pepper (or any spices you’d like) can be used to season a variety of vegetables, from squash and broccoli to eggplant and mushrooms, before grilling, roasting, or sauteing. Additionally, using soy sauce instead of salt when seasoning veggies can provide them with a wonderful savory quality.
Smoked paprika could make even the most ardent meat eater devour a plate of veggies. Its smoky, rich flavor can give even the most humble vegetable an almost “meaty” flavor. Many people use smoked paprika in a dry rub before grilling their vegetables to really intensify the smoky flavor. Others have found more creative uses for the spice, even using it to make lox, or smoked salmon, out of carrots! (I’ve included the carrot lox recipe below)
Cumin is probably my favorite spice. It might be one of the world’s favorite spices too, as it is used in cuisines from Latin America, to India, to North Africa and the Middle East. I use cumin every time I want to add a little variety to a veggie that I’ve been cooking the same way for a while. I’ve seen it used in warm carrot dishes, cold cucumber and tomato salads, sauteed greens, and much more. While cumin is definitely a strong flavor, its versatility is often underrated. I definitely recommend giving a try next time you’re looking for something a little zestier!
Vegan Carrot Lox (adapted from Love and Lemons)
This requires roasting carrots in quite a bit of salt, but no worries. Miraculously, the salt does not seep into the carrots. The final produce is so bright and beautiful and looks uncannily like lox. Enjoy!
- 4-5 carrots
- Sea salt, for coating
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Big squeeze fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Parchment Paper (if you have it)
- Whole wheat bagels
- vegan cream cheese
- cucumber slices
- chives and/or dill
Preheat the oven to 475°F and line a medium baking dish with parchment paper. Coat the bottom with about a ¼-inch layer of salt, then place the whole carrots in the dish and sprinkle with a good amount of salt. Roast the carrots until easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy. The timing will depend on the size and freshness of your carrots. Check them, starting around 10 minutes.
Make the marinade: In a shallow dish or small bowl, combine the olive oil, rice vinegar, paprika, lemon juice, and several grinds of freshly ground black pepper.
Remove the carrots from the oven and let cool. Use your hands to rub off any excess salt. Use a knife to slice a thin strip off one side of the salty skin, and then use a peeler to peel the carrot into ribbons. If your peeler gets snagged on the soft carrot, that’s ok, just slice pieces as thinly as you can with a sharp knife. Place the strips in the marinade and toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for 15-30 minutes.
Serve with bagels, cream cheese, cucumber slices, capers, chives and/or dill.
If you have extra carrots, cover and refrigerate them in the marinade for up to 4 days.