U is for Ugly: Achieving Umami with Ugly Vegetables

The April A to Z Blog Challenge today brings us to the Letter U. Hmm, I had to pick some brains but the first thought that came to mind – Ugly stuck with me. To clarify,  I am not speaking of dishes which are not presented well but ingredients that simply don’t look particularly appetizing.

Many of us have at times turned away a dish or ingredient because it looked ‘ugly’. Should we judge food by its looks? But there are some ingredients which are difficult to swallow even for the seasoned or adventurer eater. For example Geoducks or Monkfish is terrifying to look at but what does that have to do with taste? Some even consider Truffles or Bitter Melon ugly. I adore both of them.

Here is my attempt at taking gnarled and funny looking vegetables and transforming them into stars of delicious food. After walking around the grocery store, I managed to find some pretty ugly vegetables – Celery Root, Jerusalem Artichokes, Rutabaga, & Turnips.


 Grilled Vegetable Kabob

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Grilled Vegetable Kabob
Recipe type: Entree, Vegetarian
Serves: 4-6
Look at the gorgeous colors of the dish? Would you like some? I have made a simple Italian dressing as the marinade. Feel free to create your own version like Tandoori or Japanese dressing.
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 celery root, par boiled, cut into thick slices
  • 1 turnip, par boiled, cut into thick slices
  • 1 sweet potato, par boiled, cut into thick slices
  • 2 red onions, cut into thick slices
  • 2 zucchini, cut into thick slices on the diagonal
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into thick slices on the diagonal
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 portebello mushrooms, cut into thick slices
  • ½ fresh pineapple, cut into 2 inch pieces
  1. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
  2. Toss the vegetables in dressing and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. Grill or roast the vegetables until tender but firm.
I tend to serve this dish with either polenta or quinoa. Use what ever is conveniently stocked in your pantry. Polenta, quinoa, couscous, or even plain rice.


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