The produce aisle is a healthy budget cook’s best place to start a supermarket shopping trip.
By loading up the cart with bulky, nutrient-filled produce, you’ll visually make the cart smaller, and you’ll spend be less likely to fill up the cart with (less healthy) impulse buys from the more processed middle aisles. Plus, if you focus on in-season produce, you’ll be getting some of the lowest cost nutrients in the store.
Buy a combination of softer, more perishable veggies, like leafy greens, to eat right away, as well as hardier veggies, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower that can last longer in the crisper drawer.
On a weekday night, you can open up that mini “veggie pantry” and roast up a tasty and healthy side dish in a snap. One of my favourite combinations is cauliflower and onion. I add in a drained, rinsed can of chickpeas to boost the protein and fiber (and filling factor).
The basic ingredients are easy, cheap and can be swapped out easily according to what you have in the fridge –try broccoli if you are out of cauliflower. To jazz up the flavour, I use a bit of red pepper flake, lemon and tiny touch of za’atar, which is a terrific herb and spice blend that is worth having in your pantry. (But if you don’t, just use a mixture of dried oregano, dried thyme, lemon zest, sesame seed and harder-to-find spice sumac – if you have it – instead.)
The mild spiciness of red pepper-infused olive oil complements the sweetness of the roasted onions, and za’atar and lemon contribute to the overall freshness and tang of the dish.
The prep can be done in minutes, making this a great weeknight option. I like to serve it as a side with white fish and summer veggies, but it’s flavourful enough to be served alongside a cut of toothsome meat. Or, serve over quinoa or brown rice for a meatless main dish. Bonus: leftovers make a great salad topping.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CHICKPEAS AND ONION
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more for more heat)
3/4 teaspoon (or more) za’atar (herb blend)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets, about 2 1/2 cups
1 small yellow onion, chopped, about 3/4 cup
1 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), about one 15-ounce can, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, red pepper flakes, za’atar, salt and pepper. Place the vegetables and chickpeas in the bowl, and toss to coat. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the vegetables on the paper. Roast until cauliflower is tender and golden, about 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Squeeze lemon juice onto the mixture, stir, and serve.
Cook’s note: If you can’t find za’atar, substitute: 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds and 1/4 teaspoon sumac (if available).
Nutrition information per serving: 204 calories; 58 calories from fat; 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 522 mg sodium; 30 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 9 g protein.