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:

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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.