A Week of Vegetables for Dinner

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.