Veg out! Try these flavorful spreads

In the mood for a healthy snack? Celebrated food writer and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman shares his recipes for delicious vegetable spreads that are very versatile: They can be served with any bread (whole-grain, baguette, etc.), pita triangles, crackers, over pasta or rice, in endive boats as an appetizer; or as part of a tasty sandwich. Impress your friends with these easy yet elegant recipes:

Vegetable spread
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    • About 2 pounds any vegetables, trimmed and cooked until tender by any method
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Baking Directions:

Make sure the vegetables are relatively dry before starting. If you need to drain them, reserve the cooking liquid. To puree the vegetables, put them in a blender or food processor with the olive oil and as much of the cooking liquid (or water or more olive oil) as you need to get the machine going; or run the vegetables through a food mill. In many cases, you can simply mash the vegetables with a large fork or potato masher, adding the olive oil and cooking liquid as needed to reach the consistency you want.Taste, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and taste again. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature. It will keep in the fridge for several days.


For the veggies, any cooking method will work: Steam, boil, sauté, grill, or roast — though grilling and roasting concentrate flavors and make the spread more complex. Just make sure everything is quite tender.  

Veggie variations:

  • Eggplant spread
    Eggplant, trimmed and cooked until tender
    Flavor with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley
  • Beet spread
    Beets, trimmed and cooked until tender
    Flavor with walnuts and dill, serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt
  • Butternut squash spread
    Butternut squash, cooked until tender
    Flavor with fresh ginger, orange zest, and cilantro
  • Broccoli Spread
    Broccoli, trimmed and cooked until tender
    Flavor with Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil

Flavoring veggie spreads:

  • Add up to 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, basil or other mild herb leaves before pureeing.
  • Add up to a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, oregano, or thyme leaves before pureeing.
  • Squeeze some citrus juice — lemon, lime, or orange — into the puree.
  • Include a few coins of peeled fresh ginger or a garlic clove or two with the vegetables as they puree.
  • Puree the vegetable mixture with fresh (or reconstituted dried) chiles to taste, or add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.
  • When you add salt, add a pinch of ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds or nutmeg.
  • Add chili powder along with the olive oil.
  • Instead of the olive oil, use peanut oil or coconut milk, and season with curry powder.
  • Instead of the olive oil, use a combination of sesame and peanut oil, and season with five-spice powder.

Best-selling cookbook author Mark Bittman is the creator and author of the popular New York Times weekly column "The Minimalist," and one of the country's best-known and most widely admired food writers. His flagship book, "How to Cook Everything" (John Wiley and Sons, 1998), is currently in its 14th printing and has, in its various formats, sold more than a million copies.