A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans are failing bitterly to eat their greens: more than 90% of people in the U.S. don’t consume the recommended two to three cups of vegetables per day. Given that pleasure is a better motivator than far-off health benefits, we asked five renowned cooks to share their favorite ways to transform drab produce into prizewinning meals.
Mark Bittman’s steam-sauté
The best-selling cookbook author cites three reasons we should all appreciate veggies: they provide variety, everyone likes at least a few of them, and they’re nearly impossible to overeat. Bittman, who recently released a new edition of his classic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, shares his go-to: “Most vegetables, gently steam-sautéed with good olive oil, a little water, garlic, onion, salt and chili flakes, are unbeatable.”
Martha Stewart’s buttery beans
“My favorite way to prepare fresh string beans from my garden: Snap off the stem end, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, add the beans, then boil until flaccid,” Stewart says. “Immediately immerse in a bowl of cold water, and chill until you’re ready to serve. Heat one cup of water and four tablespoons of salted butter; boil, add the string beans and stir until heated through.”
Amy Chaplin’s pureed soup
One of Chaplin’s favorite all-vegetable meals is pureed soup. Start with just a few ingredients, like cauliflower, greens and dill–no stock needed. Sauté onions and garlic, add your veggies and enough water to almost cover them, then simmer until the cauliflower softens. “Stir in kale, collards or spinach and dill. Then blend,” says the author of At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen. “It’s so simple and nourishing. It’s soothing too–you want something warming this time of year.”
Jeremy Fox’s decadent cabbage
Even after writing On Vegetables, Fox went through a phase of unhealthy eating. Determined to reset, he tried a juice cleanse and ended up “cheating” with braised beet greens. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever had,” he says. “I have a rediscovered appreciation for vegetables. One of my favorites is green cabbage, sliced up and cooked down in butter with salt and lots and lots of black pepper. Just let it slowly caramelize–it’s amazing. It’s such a simple thing, a few ingredients, yet it’s really decadent and rich.”
Matthew Kenney’s ceviche
“There’s so much earthiness and natural sweetness to vegetables, and endless possibilities of cooking with them,” says the Plantlab author. “Vegetables get lost when paired with much heavier things. Standing on their own, they’re just stellar. I find that eating food that’s alive makes you feel alive.” One of his favorites: a heart of palm ceviche. Kenney marinates hearts of palm in a lemon and olive oil mixture, then serves it with a ginger, pepper, cilantro and coconut milk sauce topped with red chili pepper oil and a radish garnish.
This appears in the December 11, 2017 issue of TIME.