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August 6, 2009

Mixing your vegetables



In today's excellent Owl Meat Thursday, our guest poster intuitively understands something about fine cuisine, thereby giving his post an actual news peg. (The movie Julie & Julia opens tomorrow.) When Julia Child makes boeuf bourguignon, Owlie, she cooks the vegetables separately, then puts them with the meat at the very end to retain the separate flavors. Here's the Owl Man. EL

I was watching an episode of the show Monk. Adrian Monk is a brilliant detective with severe OCD.  During dinner with a friend he separated his vegetable "medley" into different piles on his plate. His friend said, "No, you're supposed to eat them together."
Why? ...

mixed%20veg%20kc%20500fx.jpgMonk made a lot of sense. Why eat carrots, broccoli and snow peas together? They don't complement each other. I like them separately, but they belong together like chocolate, bacon and jumbo lump crab meat belong together. Actually ... [ drifts off into a choco-bacon-crab fantasy ... ]
The random Birdseye mash-ups are part of some conspiracy, but I'm not sure which. They remind me of my mother's kitchen sink salads. I get that it may be more nutritious to eat a variety of vegetables, but why mix them together on the same plate on the same day with no regard to flavors?

That brings me to an actual vegetable hate crime – succotash. Succotash? How about yuckotash?  Why would you do that to innocent corn? Hey, you know what this delicious corn needs? A bloated pale green bean that tastes like tub grout.  
Some vegetable combinations have synergy and I salute them. Cucumber, onion, and tomatoes. Splendid.
Friends say they like the several vegetables from a pot roast. Duh, vegetables that taste like meat.
I know that some people, especially children, don't like their food to touch on the plate. I don't remember having that quirk, but I do recall making elaborate constructions of mashed potatoes and gravy that rivaled the Aswan Dam ... and then destroying them Godzilla-style.
Finally, an admission. I eat my food one ingredient at a time, which is why I think Adrian Monk's style is, well, stylin'. Another confession: I cut up my meat entirely before I eat one bite. That's Pennsylvania style. Deal with it.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:33 AM | | Comments (50)


You have probley never had "fresh" Lima beans. Cooked with butter and salt & pepper they are delicious. Alas fresh limas in the shell are hard to find.

I for one hate mixed veggies in anything but soup. I also tend to eat my way around the plate, all the veggie, all of the starch, all of the meat. I was told this was Germanic in origin , but forgot who told me that. (It was SO long ago!) Thank you for an interesting observation

No, I have never had fresh limas. I doubt that I've had them since high school. I still wouldn't mix them with corn.

I cut up my meat entirely before I eat one bite. That's Pennsylvania style

And yet another reason for my not liking PA.

Pennsylvania style? What the style is to let all the juices run out of your meat. Dry meat? That's the style?

You haven't had proper succotash, Owlie. Just the crap from the freezer section.

Get some fresh corn. Get the kernels off the cob yourself. Then get some fresh limas (both are available at the JFX Market, walking distance from Little Italy).

Totally different beast than Bird's Eye anything.

And cutting up all your meat at once is a crime against proper heat retention in flesh, not to mention my father would have beat you into cube steak for it.

I like lima beans, but the tub grout comment made me laugh.
Like MDtopdad, I eat my way around the plate.
I used to cut up my meat entirely, but don't seem to do that anymore.

My confession: I cut up spaghetti before I eat it.

Fresh limas are superb and worth the effort to shell them. I get a little crazy when they first appear in the farmers' markets because sometimes they thrive and sometimes they show up for just a week and are gone.

Even more sublime: succotash with fresh corn, fresh limas (blanched) and a little Irish butter finished in a saute pan -- texture is so much better than any frozen stuff.

With respect to Beef Bourguinon, I want it both ways. I want one round of veggies to flavor the meat while it braises, but then another round par-cooked and added at the end to preserve their character.

I am a veggie lover, hence the pen name. But I really detest the abomination known as mixed vegetables. Carrots and peas? Why? Peas cook at one level, the carrots another. You end up with mush.

At a home style restaurant during this weekend's trip I was offered peas and carrots. I turned them down. I had to do this three times and defend myself with preferring the salad bar. My boyfriend unwisely accepted the peas and carrots. Over cooked, somewhat tan peas and cubes of carrot. BLEH BLEH BLEH!

There are some veggies that go together well. An assortment of root veggies and onion is lovely. But those "stir fries" of squash and zucchini... you end up with squished veggies.

I like to eat my veggies seperately, and fresh lima beans are fantastic. My neighbor grows tasty ones every year and shares them with us. succotash is a favorite in my house. I also cut my meat entirely before eating.

I don't like succotash either. Never have. But, roasted mixed veggies (or grilled) are really good.

My embarrassing confession is I love canned peas and carrots. What can I say, good memories from my lousy childhood!

And yet another reason for my not liking PA.
Pennsylvania style? What the style is to let all the juices run out of your meat. Dry meat? That's the style?

Despite my buoyant mood, I will sharpen my teeth for your guest post tomorrow, newbie. I've got some hollow point snark just for you.

I don't know what kind of meat you've had, but meat in the Berks/Lancaster country areas and counties surrondinng Philly is amazing. It's the German influence.

Get some fresh corn. Get the kernels off the cob yourself. Then get some fresh limas (both are available at the JFX Market, walking distance from Little Italy).

Thufferin' Thuccotash! That's a lot of work - not to mention the hike! - to end up with a pot full of corn and limas!

Go MIsha! Go MIsha!

Yes! I've tapped into something here. Even if I had fresh corn and limas, why would I mix then? It makes no sense.

Frozen yuckotash? Lissa, I'm remembering canned lima beans. Yeah.

Down with mixed veggies! One vegetable always oppresses the others.

And RoCK, watch out there are other Keystoners out there. Of course I can't vouch for western PA, I haven't tasted anything from there.

meat in the Berks/Lancaster country areas and counties surrondinng Philly is amazing

Oh, like sweet bologna sticks. Do you cut them up into little pieces before eating them?

Now, you know I kid becasue I love...errr like...err tolerate. Ehhh, I kid.

Anyway, tomorrow's guest post is in, and I look forward to your scathing remarks. I don't want to boast, but I think it is pretty good. What's more, you helped to inspire it.

I eat vegetables it the order that their hue appears on the color wheel, starting with yellow and going counterclockwise.

RoCK, reciprocity is key. I think Owl Meat GetYourCauliflowerOffMyBroccoli got a little inspiration for this post from you.

Caning is something that should never happen to innocent veggies. And I've yet to meet a guilty one.

Full disclosure, the part about tomatoes, cukes and onions was taken from a RoCK Facebook comment. I posted my Monk observation and the group basically workshopped the idea for me on Sunday.

Ditto on RoCK's post probably. I kind of regret suggesting it because I could have used the idea.

Didn't anybody notice that my old friend happy flaming banana hula hoop guy is back?

May all the art critics who ever befouled this earth rot in purgatory. Finally, after 400 years, someone has provided a commentary worthy of my painting.

Oh, I wasn't looking for credit, especially not for cukes, onions and tomatoes, which can be found at any gyro stand in the world.

As to the entire notion of giving credit, unless you are talking about a word for word plagarism, I think it is next to impossible to credit those who inspire or enlighten our thoughts.

Woah...I missed flaming hoop banana guy. Dude.

Owl Meat, throttle back on the caffeine dude.

Good god do I love succotash. I make it fresh and look forward to it as a favorite dish in the late summer. I recently found a place with limas still in the shell and they are just incredible. I think the corn and limas really do compliment each other. But like others posters said, it just has to be fresh.

Tomatoes and cucumbers in red wine vinegar are another summer staple. I'm so happy mine are finally getting ripe in the garden.

My goal: Eat so much fresh corn, limas, tomatoes, and cucumbers that I get completely sick of them and don't miss them during the winter. Then when summer rolls around again, it's back to the beginning.

Mmmmm, fresh limas, I love 'em but can never find them. There should be a law about dissing vegetables-if you have never tasted fresh, then don't form an opinion based on frozen or canned. As for mixing vegetables, just one word, Ratatuille. (Not sure about that spelling)

Hmmmm... now I want succotash... The dinner hour approaches.

I don't think I've eaten succotash since grade school, but then I've never had it fresh.

Tweety Cat, it's ratatouille. I'm with you on canned veggies. Some frozen ones are not bad, but there are few good canned veggies, except maybe for beans (as in black beans, etc., not green beans).

Owl Meat, throttle back on the caffeine dude.

No caffeine, that stuff makes me crazy. It's just the normal monkeys in kayaks that inhabit my brain.

I missed the flaming banana hula hoop guy too. That graphic was a little busy, plus I was too busy checking out the veggie structure of the top face. pretty neat.

Thanks Dahlink, I was close but no cigar! You're right about frozen vegetables, I used to like Birdseye Limas, but can't find them either anymore. Seems to be a shortage of limas.

I think Snickers might be coming home soon too,

there are few good canned veggies

True. About the only canned vegetable we keep in stock at our house is corn. Don't need it this time of year, of course, but it's fine in the winter. Although, now that I think about it, we often serve it with some sauteed peppers and onions. Owl would be appalled (with two "p"s).

I'm not sure if I can pick a "worst canned vegetable", but it might very well be peas.

The key to vegetable mixtures, like the key to bouillabaisse, is to time the addition of the ingredients so everything is cooked to the proper degree of doneness at once. Sure it's a pain, but nobody said good cooking was always easy.

As for succotash, my go-to recipe is a lot like Lissa's, but I add a generous amount of chopped basil and a touch of garlic.

Lissa wrote Caning is something that should never happen to innocent veggies. And canning them is bad, too.

Just give me a heaping portion of Brussel sprouts...fresh, not frozen and not cooked to mush...and you need not add any other veggies to my plate. If there's a severe shortage of Brussel sprouts, what the heck, I'll settle for spinach.

I don't think that was a Freudian slip. I don't have a vegetable fetish. Plus my aim isn't *that* good.

I'm with you on the brussel sprouts, MAG. Roasted with hazelnuts, if I'm in a fancy mood.

Lissa, I thought you might be trying to set up Lord M. with a straight line.

Roasted is the only way I like Brussels sprouts.

Dahlink, I'm dyslexic and sloppy. If my spell checker doesn't flag it, I probably won't notice it is wrong.

Caning is a perfect good word, even if it would be a very messy way to mash potatoes.

Lissa, I thought you were making a clever joke with "caning" of innocent vegetables. It was just a misspelling? I'm crushed!

Lima beans represent perfectly that class of food that's dead to me.
My experience suggests Lima beans are born stale and go bad from there.
However, such is my admiration for D@L commenters, that I'm willing to admit I'm wrong.
Doesn't mean I want to get within a hundred feet of a lima bean, it means that they're so bad, that even if they're actually good, I don't mind being wrong about their being bad.

Hal, I am amazed at how often people take my stupid slips for wit.

Point to jl.

(nasty stuff, those tub-paste beans)

I'm with jl on lima beans. I've had enough terrible lima beans that I don't feel the need to spend a lot of energy looking for not-so-bad lima beans. The burden of proof is on the lima bean advocates.

Jackzig, not only are shell limas hard to find, they're EXPENSIVE! Weber's Farm had them this week and wanted $2 for a box of oh, maybe 20 pods. Yikes! Harold's Produce usually has bushel baskets of shell limas in late summer, and I buy as much as I can afford. If you can't find fresh, a good second choice is frozen baby limas -- not Fordhooks. When I was growing up, our favorite summer meal was corn on the cob, fresh limas, and sliced tomatoes ... heaven! We had it about once a week when everything was in prime season.

Jim, a little chopped tarragon in your succotash is outstanding! I do mean just a little -- it's strong!

Tweety Cat, it's "ratatouille." I made some today, and gotta admit, it's one of my better batches. I love to cook seafood or chicken in it and have it with rice or pasta. Wondermous good!

I'll be able to get shelled but fresh limas at JFX Market soon from the bean people. They had black beans and black eyed peas last week.


No, I'm not proving how delicious they are to you unbelievers. I'm gonna eat your share, too. With butter. And salt.

Oh, everything tastes good with butter and salt.

Lima beans don't taste good; butter and salt taste good.

i like butter and salt on tuna fish. YUM.

I will even cheerfully eat fresh lima beans without butter and salt. But, I see no reason to truncate my pleasures.

I even eat my oatmeal with butter and salt. When I'm feeling really decadent, I might add just a touch of ground chipotle.

nothing spruces up some leftover hunan shrimp like butter and salt. trust me.

Vegetables taste best when heated with leftover bacon fat.

The 9:07 comment is blog spam.

No longer. :-) EL

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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