This week is for everyone who experiences produce panic. We get it. Most of us grew up without any kind of vegetable literacy. Maybe your family table occasionally had a bagged salad drowned in dressing, broccoli smothered with cheese, or just an endless spectrum of potatoes. Those were the best-case scenarios, and our childhoods weren’t any different. Matt didn’t know there was any other way to buy or eat spinach than in a frozen souffle. Michelle had never seen brussels sprouts IRL, let alone tasted one, until college. When Michelle worked as a cashier one of the hardest things was teaching everyone to identify produce. None of us knew how to tell cilantro from parsley, or turnips from rutabagas, because no one grew up eating like that. But over the last couple decades, vegetables went from forgettable grocery items to big business. Walmart, Target, and all the rest have been steadily expanding their fresh produce sections and thus bringing accessible vegetables to many Americans who still don’t know how the hell to cook them.
We know this knowledge gap is intimidating because we had to go at it alone. Teaching ourselves how to cook vegetables back in the days of dial-up meant more than one meal ended up covered in burnt garlic and full of the saddest cauliflower you can imagine. But now, all these years later, we’re here to help.
Our new book, Brave New Meal, was designed specifically to help those fiber phobic among us. We have a huge produce guide section in the back of the book where we’ve listed all our favorite fruits and vegetables in alphabetical order with tips on when to buy, how to store them, what recipes use them, and why food is always the best medicine. No, we aren’t in there going on and on about hard to find superfoods. We hate when a cookbook calls for a random, exotic ingredient just so the author can feel knowledgeable and self-important. We would never do that shit to you. We wanted to show you all the magic, nutrients, and good ass grub that’s in your average produce section. From avocados to okra, we got you covered.
Even buying new produce can be anxiety inducing. How should it feel? Am I supposed to squeeze it? What are these spots on it? What parts do I cut off and what parts are edible? All of us are guilty of letting produce rot in the fridge because work ran late, we got scared, or we just gave up and fell back on into our delivery doldrums. So even though our new book is covered in fresh ingredients, we’re here to sing the praises of frozen fruits and vegetables.
Countless recipes in Brave New Meal offer suggestions for subbing in frozen ingredients because that’s how real life is. We can’t fill up the crisper every fucking week and watch as a third of the shit goes in the trash. That is a waste of money, resources, and our precious time. Enter your savior and your go-to produce with training wheels: frozen veggies.
Frozen produce has come a long way since it was first introduced to the world by Birdseye in 1930. Most produce is frozen at peak ripeness so you’re often getting a better bite than you would ever get fresh. Frozen peas are a perfect example of that. Green peas are ripe for such a short window that they’re gone in most markets before you ever even saw those fuckers. But thanks to flash freezing, you can have fresh, green peas year-round in your kitchen. Frozen produce is also great for saving prep time. Grabbing bags of stir-fry style vegetables or other mixed veggie blends let you get produce on the table fast without much work or a last-minute run to the store.
Here’s what we always keep on hand in our freezer:
- Green peas
- Corn kernels (sweet and roasted if you can find em)
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
- And random mixed veggie bags
Our love of the frozen aisle has few but firm limits. We believe that is a place to buy INGREDIENTS but, with a few minor exceptions, NOT A PLACE TO BUY MEALS. Frozen meals are packed with sodium, sugar, and other preservatives and are rarely worth their aggressive calorie counts when it comes to taste. Save your cash and make yourself some dinner instead of microwaving malaise.
Ok, so now your freezer is full. WTF should you do with it? Last week we gave you plenty of roasting suggestions where frozen produce performs phenomenally. Don’t even bother defrosting; just season that shit and throw it right into the oven. But there are endless other options. Sauté an onion on the stove top then dump your frozen veggies right in there for a companion to your rice, beans, baked potato or whatever else you’ve got going. Throw them in some broth with a little miso, ginger, and garlic for a last-minute soup. Puree frozen broccoli with veggie broth and spices then cook some rice in that mixture.
But our laziest way is to boil some pasta and then right before it's ready to drain we dump our frozen veggies right into the water. We do this with fresh vegetables and greens too. Just dump them right in, wait a minute or two until they're warm and tender, then drain that shit all together. Pour it back in the pot, add your sauce, seasoning, and/or fresh herbs and BOOM. Dinner took no more than 30 minutes with most of the time spent boiling a pot of water. We’ve made the cauliflower cream pasta in our first book countless times with frozen florets, same with the RCB burrito we talked about last week. When in doubt, we throw frozen peas and green beans into everything. It’s really that easy.
This week on Forked Up we explore the history of hot soda, cereal strikes, and the ingredients to a nuclear secret sandwich. Michelle spooks up the studio while Matt defends his favorite costume.
And if you still want more recipes, preorder our new cookbook Brave New Meal which comes out November 9th. That cool move gets you access to our FREE eBook, Vice House, which is up on our site now to download. It has 14 brand new recipes all inspired by Texas ice house foods that Matt grew up in Houston. Don’t forget to download it because once Brave New Meal is out, Vice House is gone FOREVER.
Also, up on our site now for free is the rainbow produce cover of Brave New Meal, without all the words and shit, for you to download if you are looking for a GORGEOUS lock screen or desktop. No purchase necessary; just free shit because we love y’all.
This week is also a great week to consider becoming a paying supporter of The Broiler Room. Unlike most food sites, we don’t run any ads so all of our funds come directly through your support like buying our books, merch, and this Substack. Your support keeps food on our table so we can keep fresh recipes in your inbox.
We’ll talk to y’all next week but ‘til then, stay hungry and keep cookin.
Michelle + Matt