Chef Rich Landau’s Top Tips for Upping Your Healthy-Cooking Game
You might call Rich Landau, the chef behind Philly’s always-packed vegetable-focused restaurants Vedge and V Street, along with the new vegan fast-food concept Wiz Kid, the ultimate expert when it comes to vegetables. But still, even when you make a living by transforming vegetables, eating all your veggies can be a struggle. “I laugh when people think I’m sitting in a garden eating kale and bean sprouts. I’m a junk-food junkie like the rest of us,” Landau says.
That said, Landau, a devoted plant-based eater, does know a whole lot more than most of us when it comes to veggies, specifically how to most easily get them from dirt into face in a healthy, delicious way. In fact, he’s featured in CuriosityStream’s just-released four-part series “Prescription Nutrition,” demonstrating how to hone your plant-based meal-making skills here.
In search of ways to improve our healthy-eating game (’tis the season, right?), earlier this week we chatted with Landau to get his top — realistic! — tips for becoming a pro at healthy, veggie-filled home-cooking. The running theme throughout them all? Submit to your laziness. Check out what he had to say below.
1. Know your limits.
And let this translate to how you buy your vegetables. As Landau says, CSAs — otherwise known as community supported agriculture, where you buy a share of a farm’s harvest in return for a weekly or biweekly box of produce — are great for some people. Namely the people who know how to pickle and can a bag of beets that inspires the question, “HOW ON EARTH WILL WE EAT ALL OF THESE BEETS?!” so that said beets don’t just end up in the garbage come trash day. For the rest of us, though, signing up for a CSA, where you’re at the farm’s mercy in terms of what veggies you get in your box each week, can be pushing our personal limits. As Landau says, if your goal is to squeeze more veggies into your diet, but you’re “being forced to eat five pounds of kale in a week, you’re not going to like kale by the time that week’s up.” And, “You’re being told what you’re going to eat that week,” which can backfire — because what if you don’t want to eat it? Or what if you have absolutely no idea how to prepare it?
Don’t get it twisted, though: Landau is still a huge advocate of supporting your local farms. But if you know you are not a wiz in the kitchen, you’re probably better off hitting up the farmers’ market and handpicking the vegetables you’d like to see on your plate that week.
2. Don’t sneer at the pre-cut section.
Whenever I see someone grabbing the always-more-expensive pre-cut veggies at Whole Foods, the word lazy slips into my mind. But Landau — a lover of pre-whittled baby carrots himself — says maybe they’re just being honest with themselves. As Landau says, “Sometimes you get home from Whole Foods and you’re like, Now I gotta prep all this shit?” And then — well, we’ve all been there — you don’t. And your noble-intentioned buys end up in the garbage bin a week later. BUT if you’d bought those veggies prepped and simply had to throw them in a saute pan and dump them over some cauliflower rice for dinner, maybe you would’ve actually eaten those vegetables, right? Right. Again, it’s all about knowing your limits. And a bonus of pre-cut veggies is that you can eat them raw as a snack day in and day out, sans consequence.
3. Quit glorifying painstakingly slow food.
Know this, my friends: The rice cooker is your friend. As Landau says, “Cooking all day doesn’t go hand-in-hand with nutrition — it’s just the way they did it 50 or 60 years ago,” because they didn’t have the options to cut down on time spent in the kitchen. Landau urges folks not to “confuse quick food with being unhealthy. It absolutely doesn’t have to be.”
4. Prep ahead of time.
Yep, even big-shot chefs meal prep for the week. “If you don’t have a lot of time to cook,” Landau says, “set aside a day and make big buckets of stuff. I just did chickpeas — you can chop up any kind of dark greens — with lemon juice, olive oil, and it gets better over time. They’re best on that fourth or fifth day.” And if you aren’t already a pre-cut-veggie-section convert, he suggests prepping a bunch of containers of chopped veggies for the week, too.
5. Keep your pantry stocked.
“Canned beans are huge,” Landau says. (We agree.) “At Horizons, we always cooked beans from scratch and it was a great and beautiful process, but by no means should people be doing that at home.” So canned beans: Write ‘em down on your grocery list, and stock your pantry. Other pantry items Landau notes as easy-healthy-dinner saviors are canned hearts of palm, canned artichoke hearts, red lentils and couscous.
6. Know: If all else fails, there’s always 7-11. Yes, 7-11.
Even if you hit the farmers’ market looking for exactly what you want, chop your veggies ahead of time and stock your pantry, there will still be days when you find yourself — somehow, some way — without a healthy lunch prepared before you head to work. In this case, Landau suggests a pit-stop at 7-11. As he notes, most 7-11s carry Moshe’s, the popular brand known for its vegetarian and vegan premade foods. Landau says, “I love that potato wrap, they’ve got those sesame noodles and the edamame salad.” And this way, you’re telling the store with your dollars that access to good, healthy foods on the go is valuable. “That’s how you vote — that’s how you change the world,” Landau says.
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