Braised veggies—it’s the dish I made for a Super Bowl Sunday in a (lame) attempt to make the night seemingly healthy. I mean, there was a buttload of wings and other not-so-healthy things. Truthfully, I made it to ensure that when my stomach had enough food out of my mandated low-fat diet, I had a back up. It also helps that this dish is entirely vegetarian, considering there were a fair amount of vegetarians at our little gathering. But I’m glad I made it, because it was yummier than I expected.
I will admit that eating healthy, even with guidelines and goals, has been challenging. Often, I end up just eating salad or something alike. It was important to me to expand beyond that scope. And for an additional challenge, I aimed to make an entirely vegetable-focused dish. Not just as a side dish either!
My first instinct was to throw a whole bunch of veggies into a pot and just call it a day. If I’m being honest, this braised veggies recipe isn’t far off from that initial jumping off point. But to make it a bit more elevated, I decided to go with braised rather than stir-fried or steamed. That would also allow me to infuse enough flavor into the dish to make it a true entree.
Ever since I bought myself a beautiful (and affordable) braising pot, I have loved to braise things. Braised veggies, or meat, or whatever, is a great one-pot cooking technique. Essentially, you put everything in an oven-safe pot with enough liquid to cover your ingredients. Then bake it on a low heat for a long time to embed that liquid’s flavor inside the dish. It also helps to braise when you’re cooking multiple items. Braising is a long and slow process—usually. So while I was breading and frying chicken, I was also braising these veggies.
The other nice thing about this dish? It works with pretty much any vegetables. It’s your choice! I chose veggies that I knew would hold their textures pretty well even when cooked for a long time. You have to be careful when cooking veggies for an extended time–they could end up mushy and that’s not what you want. To help avoid this, fry the vegetables ahead of time so they have a crisp texture before being added to the liquid. Anyways, so I chose two kinds of potatoes–red and sweet. Red potatoes are my favorite kind, so that seemed like an obvious choice. Sweet potatoes would provide a nice sweetness to the dish as well as a complementary texture. I also added carrots, onions, garlic, and kale. But like I said, the choice of veggies is up to you.
I started of with the aromatics, sauteing the garlic and onions. Then I removed them to a plate. I did this for all of the veggies so that they didn’t overcook. Remember, frying them is just to give them texture before they adding them to the liquid. You’re not actually trying to fully cook them yet. So after the aromatics, I did the potatoes, remove, carrots, remove and that’s it. The kale does not need to be fried–unless you want that way! After everything has been fried, I added it back to the braising pan and add the liquids. Again, except for the kale. Kale is like spinach, it cooks quickly. You don’t need to add that until close to the end. I mixed in the kale in the last 5 minutes of cooking, to be exact.
For my liquids, I chose coconut milk and vegetable stock. Coconut milk has the texture, viscosity, and look of milk but it’s a little sweeter. Vegetable stock is a bit saltier, which helps balance out the sweetness and provides a more robust flavor profile. This is also the point where I added my spices–paprika, chili powder, and cumin. Again, you can go with whatever spices you feel speak to you at that time. This recipe is more about the braising than the taste, so anything goes. I liked the idea of giving the vegetables a smoky taste, and all the spices I chose do that well.
Once you add the liquid and spices, mix everything together. Bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat. Your preheated oven should be set at 300°. Then, place it in the oven–covered–for 25-30 minutes. Now, I didn’t do this part when I made it. I actually braised it at a higher temp for longer, and everything came out mushy! It still tasted the way I wanted it to, but I’m a big believer in texture. So, I think cooking it at a lower temp for a shorter time will help ensure you reach the desired texture. What you want is slightly soupy, and soft vegetables–NOT mushy! They shouldn’t be crunchy, but they should have substance.
If you’re successful–because I wasn’t–then what you’ll get is a vegetable mix that is smoky, slightly sweet, and fully savory. It should feel filling, like its own standalone dish. Of course, you could serve it as a side dish. But I preferred having it over some rice (duh)! This dish had its many challenges for me, but it was a learning experience. As I expand my healthy habits beyond just lean meats and salads, I find that fully vegetarian dishes can still be delicious! I’m not making any lifestyle changes anytime soon. But maybe many more veggie-forward dishes to come. Look out!
- 2-3 large red potatoes peeled, chopped
- 2 large sweet potatoes peeled, chopped
- 1 bunch carrots unpeeled, cut into thirds
- 1 large onion halved, quartered
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 8 oz coconut milk
- 1-2 cups vegetable stock
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tbsp chili powder
- 1/4 cup kale chopped
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a braising pan or dutch oven, heat oil over high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until charred and fragrant--about 4 min. Remove to a plate.
Fry the carrots until slightly charred--about 4 min. Remove to plate. Do the same with the potatoes until slightly seared--about 5 min. Add the remaining vegetables (except kale!) back into the pan.
Pour in the coconut milk. Add enough veggie stock to cover the vegetables halfway. Add the salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and cumin. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Turn off.
Braise in the oven for 30 min or until soft. In the last 5 min mix in the kale. Serve over rice!