[woops, not sure why I posted this to Site Talk earlier today...I've reposted it here, and the replies as well]
This is a confession.
As many of you know, I pride myself on being able to appreciate a lot of radically different sorts of eating experiences. I think of myself as a gastronomic chameleon, swaggering into cuchifritos parlors for my codfish croquettes, lining up obediently in Harlem church basements for smothered pork chops, and genteely swirling my merlot in plusheterias. I like to rip into chicken legs with Viking ferocity, but I also like to nibble hesitantly on morsels of delicate sashimi. I like big, lusty flavors, and I like subtle, low-profile flavors. I like anything GOOD, anything that makes me feel glad to be alive and inspires me, anything that edibly evokes a different way of seeing/feeling/being. I hate to let my own limitations get in the way of appreciating the entire spectrum of deliciousness and great dining experience.
Most of you can relate to all that. But here's where we part company, I fear.
There's a bleak extreme on my spectrum of edible appreciation: I actually like hippy vegetarian whole grain food. I like tofu. I use a steamer. I can dig unseasoned millet stews.
Mind you, I don't like this stuff with the same part of my brain that appreciates a sizzling hot Columbian cheese arepa; I like it because 1. it provides counterbalance to the aforementioned cheesey arepas, lusty chicken legs, codfish croquettes, etc, and 2. it makes me feel virtuous (both in the smug connotation and in the "doing something good for your body" connotation). I guess it fits in modularly with my surprisingly rigorous gym work-out regime.
Unfortunately, few others bridge these extremes. People who dig brown rice and sprouts tend to shun hamburgers. People who dote on oily soup dumplings generally revile carrot juice. So while a mixture of the two extremes would be a great diet, the twain never meet. Good luck trying to find whole grains in any GOOD restaurant--good luck even trying to find GREEN stuff just as a side dish in many of them. And good luck trying to find healthy veg food places which also serve meat, so you can get some protein and satiation along with your steamed collards. There are two camps: arterially challenged carnivores and dry-up-and-blow-away vegetarians. The former could badly use some steamed cauliflower, the latter a nice juicy steak.
This creates a problem. There are culinary tourists who eat out a few times a month, and want pure hedonism. But those of us chowhounds who eat out frequently would like the option of some fiber and niacinimide with our meals. And it's very hard indeed to get a truly "square meal", in the modern nutritional sense. But this rant is digressing badly, so back to the track.
I cook this veg stuff myself and eat (gasp) at home sometimes. And it tastes pretty bland. But I like it, for those reasons of counterbalance and virtuousness. It's not about flavor sensations. Flavor sensations I know where to find. I cook it for the opposite of that. I cook it for a different sort of food experience, which I enjoy on its own terms.
However (and this is where you'll stop having your mind blown by my extreme un-chowhoundness), while I don't intend to make this stuff wailingly delicious (and have NO time at all to devote to it), I'd love some pointers on how to make it at least a LITTLE bit better. I'm getting sick of chucking sliced carrots and shredded kale to steam in my pot of cooking brown rice. I've exhausted soy and good olive oil and garlic as seasonings, and while I don't want to add all sorts of ambitious steps, unhealthy steps, time-consuming steps, I'm wondering if any other health-minded hounds have tips for zipping this stuff up just a tad? Coupla quick tips which don't add fat/salt/time/expense?
I mean...if I were gonna get ambitious, it wouldn't involve, like, kale, y'know? Not being a vegetarian, I don't NEED to take pains to make these sorts of foods serve much more than utilitarian function. But...a LITTLE step up would be nice. Thoughts? Other than unbridaled revulsion?