Photo: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani
Whether it's their moderate-to-loud flavor, unusual slipperiness or surprising sweetness, some people don't quite know what to make of beets. But Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, co-authors of The Flavor Bible, love their earthy taste and the soft-firm texture they take on when cooked. The best way to make these antioxidant-rich vegetables taste delicious is pairing them with contrasting ingredients. That can be a salty, creamy cheese (e.g., goat or blue), toasted nuts (e.g., walnuts or almonds)-or both. "The creamy and crunchy elements serve as counterpoints to the beets," the husband-and-wife team say.
Get the recipe: Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula
A Thanksgiving staple for many, these mini cabbages are bitter and very "vegetal" tasting, in the words of Page and Dornenburg. They also turn gray and stinky, taking on a sulfurous odor, if you overcook them. For this much-maligned vegetable, we asked James Peterson, who went from studying chemistry at Berkeley to teaching home cooks the finer points of flavor, which ingredient is most likely to convert skeptics. Bacon, says Peterson, the author of Kitchen Simple: Essential Recipes for Everyday Cooking, without missing a beat. The crisp, smoky, salty meat is the perfect complement to Brussels sprouts' inherent (really!) sweetness. To combat texture issues, try slicing them thinly (julienne style) and sautéing them in olive oil with garlic so they soften without getting mushy.
Get the recipe: Brussels Sprouts with Turkey Bacon
"Frightful memories!" That's the only way Peterson can describe a childhood spent choking down this cruciferous vegetable, which, like the Brussels sprout, acquires a strong sulfury taste when cooked too long. Now, though, Peterson puts cauliflower in a soufflé-like gratin with plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gruyère. "This preparation makes it more about cheese; the cauliflower just becomes a sort of medium for it," he says.
Get the recipe: White House Cauliflower Gratin
Some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro, but the intense aromatics of this herb-a cornerstone in Mexican and Thai cuisine-can be tamed. Page and Dornenburg suggest tempering it with olive oil, such as in a cilantro pesto made with olive oil and cotija cheese, which you can then use to top chicken or fish. Or go the more tried-and-true route, pairing it with a compatible loud flavor, such as chilies, so they balance each other out.
Get the recipe: Chile-Lime Crab Salad with Avocado and Cilantro
KEEP READING: 2 More Foods You Only Think You Don't Like
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