Food & Drank: Vegetables and Hard Times

By Abbie Shain

In my cooking experience, I have found some people to be, shall I say, reluctant, hesitant, intimidated, or even afraid of vegetables. Vegetables are delicious. And J-Term is the perfect time to experiment with some new or old ones. Mind you, all vegetables should be washed before they are prepared! So without further adieu, here is the un-official and abbreviated Food and Drank Guide to Vegetables: Beets-These are my spirit vegetable. Sweet and earthy, these gems are great roasted or boiled. Either way, they take quite a while to cook. To boil, chop into 1-inch chunks, and simmer for 45 minutes, then cool and peel. To roast, peel beets, then chop them into 1-inch chunks. Lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook for about an hour or until soft in a 350 degree oven. They are great plain, or sprinkled with balsamic vinagrette! Asparagus-Really, asparagus should not be overcooked. If done well, asparagus is delicious. It’s like eating little trees. So much fun! Brussels Sprouts-Trust me on these, they are, in fact, delicious. My favorite way is to make them in a coconut curry with mustard seeds. Carrots-A common vegetable, but still a gem. Carrots are also great roasted (the same way as beets, even with beets!). Plus, they have Vitamin K! What more could you want? Cucumbers-Need I say more? Eggplant-They love salt and olive oil, and both should be used generously when cooking this vegetable. When prepared right, eggplant is a gem. My favorite way is to dip it in milk, dredge it in flour with a pinch of salt, some garlic powder, and dried basil and oregano, and then pan fry it in olive oil. Excellent on sandwiches! “Greens At Large” Did you know that you can cook beet greens? They are deeeelicious. Throw them in with spinach, kale (the stem part is bitter, cut it out!), collards, swiss chard, and have yourself a lovely stir fry. Great with a little soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger for some Asian flair. Lettuce-Try a lettuce salad with craisins, pecans, and raspberry vinagrette for a super tasty lunch. Parsnips-Unfortunately, an overlooked vegetable. They look like a larger, white carrot, but they are more like a sweeter version of a potato. You can do with parsnips pretty much what you do with potatoes, especially mashed parsnips. Mmmmm. Also great roasted. Peppers-These are obviously great dipped in dips, chopped in salads, and such. Peppers are also fabulous when stuffed with tasty things like rice pilaf. Potatoes-They are a winter staple. Try mashing them with roasted garlic, rosemary, and goat cheese for a dish that’s sure to impress. Spinach-Spinach salad, spinach pasta, spinach sauteed with caramelized onions and pine nuts, spinach is delicious in so many ways. And full of iron! Sweet Potatoes- Roast ‘em, mash ‘em, bake ‘em (with marshmallows and brown sugar), sweet potatoes are beauts! Get your beta-carotene on, folks! Zucchini-It is best grilled on charcoal on hot summer days. Also good in dishes such as ratatouille. In addition to cooking vegetables, there are some exciting all-vegetarian restaurants in the Twin Cities. Here is one that I visited on a fun night out with friends: I had always heard talk of an all vegetarian, cooperatively owned and operated cafe. The name was invoked, but I had never taken the initiative to go all the way out there, until, after going to a fashion show to raise money for the famine in the Horn of Africa, Hard Times just popped into my head. I was out in Cedar/Riversides with my roommate and a gaggle of friends, and I knew that Hard Times was close. It was late at night, we were hungry, and it seemed like the perfect place to grab a bite, only about three blocks away. Hard Times is one of the coolest “restaurants” I’ve ever been to. Don’t expect anything fancy. This is not a white table-cloth establishment, something that you could probably gather by the name. This is also not the absolute best food in all of the Twin Cities. The food comes out fast and it is tasty, but not gourmet. Their prices are also very reasonable. Here’s the drill at Hard Times. You peruse the menu, and write down what you want on a slip of paper provided at the register. Be careful to separate your drink order from your food order, or else the barista may sulk (we may have made that mistake). You write it down and hand it to the person behind the counter to remove the power dynamics of someone taking your order. So, to the Food and Drank of it all. The drink selection is awesome. They have exciting herbal iced tea (like sage mint) and homemade chai. Their coffee is thick and french pressed. They also had cool homemade juices. Foodwise, this is one of the few places I know where you can order a burrito or falafel. They had multiple kinds of soup, and cool omelette dishes that could be made with tofu to be vegan. Their baked-goods selection was exciting as well. I had a vegan chocolate raspberry muffin-y cupcake (or was it more of a cupcakey muffin?) that was enormous and enormously delicious. Hard Times has eclectic international vegetarian food and is open into the wee hours of the morning. It’s a fun adventure to get there. Once there, you can stay awhile and hang out or play their boardgames, an option that I chose with zest and zeal. The atmosphere is chill and alternative. Hard Times Cafe: 1821 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55454 Directions: Take the 84 South to 46th Street Station (about 13 minutes). Get on the Light Rail towards North/Downtown and stay for 9 minutes, or 4 stops. Get off at Cedar/Riverside. Head north towards 15th Street South which turns right and becomes 14th Street South. Continue onto Riverside Avenue. Hard Times is located at 1821 Riverside Avenue.