Winter veggies can be mighty tasty—honest

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Buttery shortbread, copious glasses of wine, and third helpings of the holiday pudding seemed like a good idea at the time, but now your system is telling you a different story. For the new year, you want to listen to your body for a change, to feed it according to the seasons, with vegetables that were harvested from local soil.

At first, January—with its limited pickings—doesn’t seem like the best month for upping your veggie intake. But according to Mary Mcintyre, owner of Little Nest (1716 Charles Street), eating beets and turnips is a natural part of following the seasons. “It’s something instinctive for me. I want to eat more heartily in the winter,” she says over the phone.

For first thing in the morning, Mcintyre recommends dishes that are high in protein and fibre. Instead of your usual processed cereal, make a “porridge” using dried beans or lentils and local squash, or have a bowl of minestrone soup, chock full of local kale, swiss chard, and your favourite root vegetables.

If you like eggs, she suggests serving them up with any sautéed local green—such as spinach, kale, or collard greens—or a salad of arugula, radicchio, and baby kale. Or, Mcintyre suggests trying out roasted squash, pumpkin, or celeriac on the side.

For lunch, lose the baloney and go for kohlrabi (a vegetable with the German name of “cabbage turnip”), which Jason Leizert, executive chef at the Parker (237 Union Street), says is great on a sandwich. “They have so much flavour and texture. Cook them slightly, and they’ll have a good sweetness,” he explains. Add some Golden Ears Cheesecrafters Cheddar and homemade aioli, Leizert says, and you’ll be the envy of the office.

“The big thing for me right now are sunchokes,” says Leizert, who loves the earthy, nutty flavour of the vegetable also known as a Jerusalem artichoke. He enjoys having them roasted in a salad, along with arugula and roasted kabocha squash and topped with an apple vinaigrette. He also makes a soup by sautéing them with onions and then blending them with stock until smooth. Other times, he eats them roasted and sliced, with a splash of olive oil, some good sea salt, and chopped roasted chestnuts.

During a phone chat, Leizert brainstorms other lunch ideas. He suggests making an omelette ahead of time—with leeks from Pemberton’s North Arm Farm, mushrooms, and fresh herbs—for rewarming midday. And mushroom fans can go for marinated oyster mushrooms in a roasted beet salad.

Jason Harris, executive chef at Fraîche (2240 Chippendale Road, West Vancouver), has two go-to winter veggies for dinner: kale and squash. “Kale has lots of fibre, is great for digestion, and is high in antioxidants,” he raves during a phone interview. His chilly-night restorative consists of braised kale, apples, turnips, and shredded smoked ham hock. If you don’t want ham, smoked turkey also works well in the dish. For a crunchy texture, add some fresh fennel at the last minute.

Harris adores the simple bliss of a whole roasted chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, and with lemon, onion, and fresh thyme leaves placed in the cavity. (Or, Harris says you could opt for a roasted chicken breast.) He places it atop cut-up squash and potatoes, which take on the intense flavours of the chicken juices as the bird cooks. Also good is halving an acorn squash and roasting it with onion, fresh thyme, and apricots. Harris’s wife, Michelle Meyer, roasts chunks of acorn squash with onion and then tosses them in a yogurt vinaigrette with blanched kale and a dusting of cinnamon and saffron.

His tip for new converts looking to buy local veggies? Every Saturday, check out the Winter Farmers Market in the east parking lot of Nat Bailey Stadium. “Your best bet is the farmers market. They all come to you. It’s pretty awesome,” Harris says.

Tara McDonald, executive director of the Vancouver Farmers Market, buys kale at the market so she can make kale chips for noshing on in between meals. She tosses the kale in olive oil and sea salt and bakes it in the oven at 350 ° F (175 ° C) for 10 to 15 minutes until it gets crispy. Sometimes she makes root vegetable chips, or if she’s feeling less industrious she purchases them from the market vendor Rootables Chips. And, says McDonald, what’s more satisfying and easy to prepare than fresh raw veggies, such as carrots or celery, for dipping in homemade hummus or pesto?

McDonald, though, defers to the veggie experts for a wealth of tips. “Go and talk with them about the best way to incorporate their vegetables into your eating right now. This is why we do the farmers markets. They’re a direct connection to the farmers.”

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