Load Up on Flavored Vegetable Dishes

Last month I went to a dinner banquet at a big hotel. One third of the people who attended the banquet had asked for a vegetarian meal. The cost of a vegetarian plate was $45.00!  So many were hungry and were eagerly waiting for their meal to be served. Guess what? The vegetarians were served boiled and overcooked vegetables, placed one on top of another along with a hunk of cheese. That’s it. I was thinking, my goodness with so many ways to cook vegetables deliciously, why serve the vegetables in such an unappetizing manner? Even a baked potato with some veggies and melted cheese on top would have been great.

I had chosen to eat a vegetarian meal that day. I came home feeling very hungry and so did many others who had chosen the vegetarian plate. The vegetarians were shaking their heads and did not eat much. After I returned home from the event, I opened the fridge and ate leftovers. In another banquet dinner in a different major hotel, a lady sitting next to me asked for a vegetarian plate. Guess what she was served? A plateful of a variety of fruits! Hmm, I thought it is not vegetables, but this is better than mushy, overcooked vegetables. I was thinking the following as I came out of these events.

Why is it so hard to prepare a vegetarian meal? Well, perhaps…

  •      It is easy to serve vegetables just as salads.
  •        It is easy to serve just steamed or boiled vegetables.
  • Cooking vegetables with onions, tomatoes, legumes and spices is not known.
  •     There is not enough training or interest in vegetarian cooking.

Vegetarian meals can be so delicious when enhanced with spices and legumes. The use of onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and cilantro can enhance the appeal of vegetable dishes. Cooking vegetables from a broad array including cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, squash, cabbage, beets, carrots, lima beans, Brussels sprouts and broccoli is healthful.  We are blessed with an abundance of colorful, fresh vegetables and should take advantage of their availability. Farmer’s markets are beaming with vibrant looking vegetables, fruits and herbs. When vegetables are cooked with legumes (lentils) and spices, the resulting dishes are aromatic, flavorful and visually appealing. A single vegetable can be cooked in so many different ways, each tasting differently. Can you believe it?

Spices and legumes make even bland vegetables come alive and tasty. Foods bursting with different flavors and colors are satisfying and pleasing to the eye and the palate. Spices like cinnamon, cumin, turmeric add flavors, are healthful and have a preservative quality. Many spices are available in regular grocery stores. Legumes (lentils, peas and beans) are great source of protein and fiber.

Any comments or questions (alamelu99@yahoo.com) are welcome. My passion is to help people discover enjoyable ways to eat healthful foods including vegetables.

Cauliflower Masala Poriyal (This de-liteful cauliflower stir-fry with onions, tomatoes and spices makes a colorful, finger licking side dish to any meal)

Preparation time about: 20 to 30 minutes


2 tablespoons canola oil
2 to 3 slivered pieces cinnamon stick
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
1 small tomato, cut in small chunks
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cauliflower, washed and cut in1-inch chunks (including short stems)

1.      Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add cinnamon stick and cumin seeds until seeds turn golden brown.

2.      Add onion and tomato. Stir-fry for a minute or two over medium heat.

3.      Add turmeric powder, cayenne powder and cumin powder. Stir the spice powders with onions and tomatoes well over medium heat for 1 minute.

4.      Add tomato sauce and salt. Mix well to obtain a thick consistency.

5.      Add cauliflower chunks and blend carefully with sauce. Cover and cook over low medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. If cauliflower sticks to the skillet add a tablespoon of water and cook until it is tender.

6.       Continue cooking until cauliflower is just tender, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overcook.

Health benefits of the ingredients used in this above recipe:

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable. It is rich in Vitamin C, K, folate and dietary fiber.

Cinnamon may help control blood sugar and cholesterol.

Cumin seeds/powder – antioxidant and is also known as a digestive spice.

Turmeric powder – the spice of life and is known as the “superstar of spices”.

Cayenne pepper – Rich in Vitamin A. Adds zest to flavorful dishes. Capsaicin, a compound found in pepper, is being studied as an effective treatment for arthritis.

Tomato Sauce- Rich in lycopene. Acts as a powerful antioxidant and help reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers.


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