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A Week of Vegetables for Dinner

After yet another disappointing Saturday morning at Weight Watchers (I stayed the same, even though last Sunday’s dinner at The Queen’s Hideaway was my only real splurge), S asked if there was anything he could do to help—he’d already agreed not to bring any kind of junk food into the house, and he’s been going with me to the gym.

Me: “No, it’s my fault. It’s up to me.”
Him: “Well, I just weighed myself at the gym and I didn’t lose anything either. How about if we have a week of steamed vegetables for dinner?”

S’s suggestion was incredibly sweet, and indicative of his general menschiness. I’ve often mentioned—ahem, whined—to him how differently I eat now that I’m married. When I was losing my 100 pounds ten years ago, I was single and free to eat a huge pot of steamed vegetables and a Morningstar Farms Garden Veggie Patty three nights a week, and nobody noticed. Now I cook a real meal, or we eat out. While I don’t blame being married for my inability to stay focused on losing weight, my eating patterns have definitely changed. My only concern about S’s suggestion was that I didn’t think either of us would be too happy eating nothing but steamed vegetables for a week—but I did think there was a bit of genius in the idea. So instead of practicing asceticism, we decided to build all our dinners this week around vegetables—no animal protein, and starchy foods only as a supporting player. If we have pasta, it will be primavera, and there will be at least twice as many vegetables as rotini twists.

Yesterday afternoon I spent some time in the kitchen, whipping up two dishes that a) created a big batch with plenty of leftovers, b) taste much better—richer—with some time to sit, and c) didn’t require any heat at all: Gazpacho with Honeydew and Pappadew, and Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad, made zesty with the addition of a chipotle in adobo. Both are brimming with vegetables, and in the case of the salad, the legumes (beans) and grain (corn) combine to make a “complete” protein—one that can be readily synthesized by the body. No need for meat! Don’t get me wrong: Neither S nor I has any intention of giving up meat out of any false sense of virtue—we’re not doing this to be holier-than-thou. We’re just doing it as an exercise, a way of shaking up our eating, in hopes that we’ll drop a pound or two.

Now, if you read Words to Eat By regularly you know that enjoying what I eat is as important to me as the food itself. There’s really no point in eating something if it’s not delicious, if it doesn’t provide some sort of pleasure, right? Both these dishes accomplish that quite nicely. The addition of honeydew and pappadew peppers (but not Mountain Dew, thank you very much) to a basic gazpacho recipe—adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook—provides a lovely layer of sweetness and piquancy. And a dressing featuring lime juice, a minced chipotle pepper, and luscious, smoky adobo sauce adds a considerable kick to a salad that’s already quite pretty to look at. (I do wonder, though, if the leftovers will be too spicy, since they’ll have had so many more hours to stew.)

With both these dishes, the fact that the ingredients are as fresh as can be—the tomatoes, honeydew, cucumber, and corn were all newly purchased at the farmer’s market—definitely adds to the flavor. That corn was so sweet I didn’t even cook it!

Gazpacho with Honeydew and Pappadew
Serves 4-6

1 large English cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
8 pappadew peppers, drained
3 large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
½ red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 of a large honeydew melon, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 46-oz bottle of low-sodium vegetable juice
Several glugs of olive oil
Several glugs of sherry vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

In your food processor, pulse each of the vegetables and the honeydew separately until the pieces are small and uniform—if you do them all at once, you’ll end up with a mushy mess. (You can put the pappadews in with the bell peppers, and I’ve been known to toss the garlic in with the red onion instead of mincing by hand.) After you process each one, put it into the largest bowl you have. Add the garlic (if you haven’t already) and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for several hours, stirring occasionally. This is much, much better after it’s had a nice long rest.

Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad
Serves 4

2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
fresh corn kernels from 3 large ears of corn, raw if they’re really fresh, lightly cooked if not
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (leave tiny ones whole)
¼ red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
A good-sized handful of minced flat-leaf parsley (this should probably have cilantro in it, but I hate the stuff and it’s my recipe, so…no)

3 T. fresh lime juice
1 T. rice wine vinegar (or mild vinegar of your choice)
2 T. olive oil
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced, with
2 t. adobo sauce

Toss beans, corn, tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and parsley in a large salad bowl. Put dressing ingredients in an air-tight shaker (or whisk vigorously in a bowl), and pour over the salad. Stir to combine, and let sit for at least half an hour to let the flavors meld.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    You said,"No need for meat! Don’t get me wrong: Neither S nor I has any intention of giving up meat out of any false sense of virtue—we’re not doing this to be holier-than-thou."

    So, people who don't eat meat are all doing it out of a "false sense of virtue", then?

    Shame on you.

    I don't eat meat because I love animals.

    Is that alright with you?

  2. debbie koenig

    Of course it's all right with me! I said that *Stephen and I* weren't doing it out of any false sense of virtue. That doesn't mean I think vegetarians are. Way to misinterpret.

    But thanks for the shame.

  3. Anonymous

    I know this is way late… but I wanted to let you know I'm a vegetarian and read this post and didn't find your comment offensive at all 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    helllo i liked this because im doing a school project about vegetables and this really inspired me thanks for righting it anyways. By the Way im another anonymous not the first person ok.

  5. debbie koenig

    Thanks for clarifying, anonymous #3! And thanks so much for stopping by.

  6. mailinda

    I think I will try your black bean recipe – sounds simple and easy. Thanks for sharing it. It would be great with brown rice or even a whole wheat pasta 🙂

    I ditched MOST processed food two months ago (for me, that's like going from 2k calories a day of processed food to more like 500 calories a day) and have lost 8 pounds in two months. Goal is to lose 30 pounds and get myself to 130.

    But like you, there are weeks where I lose nothing. Even more frustrating, there are weeks where I lose nothing but my pants are looser.

    I finally had my spouse take a picture of me (God love him) and I can SEE where my weight loss is.I found that EXTREMELY motivating – you might want to try it.

    So I think it's important not to rely on the scale too much – if at all.

  7. debbie koenig

    I agree, Mailinda. Congratulations on your achievement! And now I'm curious, since this is the second comment I've received on this old post in the last few hours–did you find it via a link from somewhere?

  8. Ron S. Doyle

    I love rude anonymous comments. They make me giggle. Guess it's a good thing that Anonymous #1 doesn't love plants—otherwise they'd starve to death. 😉

    My wife and I switched to a plant-based diet in June. You could say we're vegan, but certainly not Vegan—I still own leather shoes, eat honey, and let the occasional slice of bacon jump into my mouth.

    We changed because there's heart disease and diabetes in our families and vegan diets have been used as a successful treatment for both. We also changed because, well, meat is expensive and we didn't need it.

    I've lost 15 lbs and the change has invigorated me in the kitchen— I love learning new low-fat tricks, like using vegetable broth instead of butter for sauteing onions.

  9. Debbie Koenig

    Wow, Ron, good for you! I’m not sure I could hack a vegan diet–mostly because it strikes me as being so much harder. You can’t just buy bread, or–more importantly–cookies.

  10. marisa

    Looks tasty! Can’t wait to try these recipes out. I searched for vegetable dinner on Google (no quotes) and this was the 2nd hit. Must be good!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Thanks, Marisa. If you try anything, please let us know how it turns out!

  11. BJ

    Hello Debbie. I own your book and love it. One point though– in though the book and the website recipe for the gazpacho you list vegetable juice as an ingredient, but the instructions never say to add it. I assume I’m just supposed to pour it in there but I was too tired tonight to make that assumption so I didn’t do anything with the veggie juice. The gazpacho tastes good without it. 🙂 can you clear up the mystery of the veggie juice?

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Holy cow, BJ, you’re the first person to notice that! In the book–which was tested by at least a dozen people–I left it out of the instructions. I’m so embarrassed! Up above, though, it says to add the “remaining ingredients.” At least I got it right one place 😉

      I’ve made a note to fix that in subsequent printings. Thank you!

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