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Eating Well and Staying Safe During COVID-19: Long-Lasting Veggies

By Catherine Newman

Recipes using delicious vegetables that stay fresh longer to help you avoid the grocery store

Chances are pretty good that you’re trying to minimize your trips to the grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic. Also that the resulting scarcity of resources might be leading to “creative” substitutions (Tofu parmesan!) and a constantly dwindling supply of fresh produce.

With a little bit of planning, though, you can buy vegetables that keep well and are delicious—thereby minimizing shopping, maximizing nutrition, and eliminating that terrible tick-tock feeling of something rotting in your vegetable drawer. My family is shopping about once every two weeks, which means that we choose and use vegetables in a very particular way. We select a wide range, including veggies that don’t keep well, but we use those first. Then we also buy lots of great keepers, which can be cooked or eaten raw in a variety of ways. Here is roughly the order in which you might consider using the vegetables you buy:

Fragile greens: arugula, spinach, baby lettuces, chard, most fresh herbs

Sturdier greens: kale, chard, collards, romaine lettuce, parsley

More delicate vegetables: green beans, broccoli, zucchini and other summer squash, bell peppers, scallions, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms

Sturdier vegetables: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery, fennel, leeks, Napa cabbage, red radishes

Sturdiest vegetables: green or red cabbage, winter squash

The roots: carrots, beets, daikon (and other large radishes), turnips, rutabagas, onions, garlic (I’m not including potatoes because of their high carb content)

It’s the sturdiest vegetables seem to be weighing on folks like an anvil of dinnertime expectation. A kind of, “Okay, I bought the cabbage. Now what?” feeling. That’s where these adaptable and forgiving recipes come in—recipes that meet you where you are, which is inside a vegetable drawer filled with stuff that doesn’t excite you. Oh, but it will excite you! Or, at the very least, it might. Here’s hoping.

1. Crustless Cauliflower Quiche with Blue Cheese

Let me say, first off: if blue cheese is not your thing, don’t be daunted! Just pretend the recipe is called something else, and swap in cheddar or Swiss or whatever you like best. And if you don’t have cauliflower, use broccoli or greens or whatever vegetable you have and like—just be sure to cook it first so that it doesn’t suddenly release all of its liquid in the oven and make the custard watery. And definitely don’t try to cut into this while it’s still hot as it will fall all to pieces. That’s all, though, for the dire warnings! Because the quiche itself is gorgeously creamy and tender and robustly flavored. Plus, if your cauliflower has seen brighter days, a good, hot sear in the pan will disguise its age.

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2. Bright Roots Slaw

Once you’re out of leafy greens, you need to get a little more flexible about what counts as salad. This slaw is a good example of that flexibility: it’s fresh and crunchy and packed with nutrition, even though there’s not a traditional salad green in sight. (Also, it is inanely pink.) The dressing is very light, but if mayonnaise is not your thing, feel free to swap in a basic vinaigrette.

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3. Celery Salad with Tuna

This is like tuna salad, but with the ratio flipped: celery plays a starring, rather than a supporting, role here. In fact, if you’re low on tuna, you can use only one can, and this will still be good. My 20-year-old son, who is usually more interested in food that is either hot from the deep fryer or has a gigantic bone sticking out of it, will eat and eat this salad, directly from the bowl, until it’s gone. It multiplies well and also halves easily, and you can stretch it with a can of drained white beans, if you like (recalculate the carbs if you do).

Celery can keep a month or more in the refrigerator, but if it gets too raggedy for eating raw, try this “recipe” instead: braise it over very low heat, covered, with a splash each of olive oil and water (or wine), a generous pinch of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a few smashed cloves of garlic. After 2 hours, add a big squeeze of lemon juice and eat it.

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4. Collapsing Cabbage

This is a combination of an old favorite recipe of mine, Molly Stevens’s Braised Cabbage from her wonderful book All About Braising, and Adeena Sussman’s Melted Cabbage. Somehow, this is less fussy than either recipe, while remaining entirely, meltingly delicious and filling your home with a very comforting and old-fashioned aroma. Our grocery store sells basketball-sized heads of cabbage—you can watch all the Polish grandmothers fill their carts to make golumpki and kapusta—and we saw away at them for weeks. If your cabbage is likewise enormous, just eyeball the amount here: you want to fill your pan with wedges that around 2 inches thick at their thickest point.

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Some other recipes you might be able to make with long-lasting vegetables:

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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