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For the Vegetable Lover In You

The phrase, "eat your vegetables" takes on a whole new meaning when the veggies are in the hands of caterer and cooking instructor Peter Berley.

His latest cookbook, "Fresh Food Fast" shows us that great tasting all-vegetable menus can be had in under and hour, and still be exciting.

He visits The Early Show on Thursday to show us how to prepare Chilled Avocado Soup With Lime And Jalapeño, and to talk about a spring/summer medley of dishes such as: Spicy Summer Bean and Chickpea Salad with Harrisa Vinaigrette; Warm Summer Berries with Whipped Creme Fraiche; Carrot Mint Salad with Currants; and Fresh Corn Polenta with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes.

Berley is not anti-meat. In fact, he is himself a meat eater. Nonetheless, he is quite passionate about the need for all of us to do better in the veggie department, and to do that one must be armed with dishes that not only excite and look good, but are pleasing to the palate as well.

The following are his recipes:

Chilled Avocado Soup With Lime And Jalapeño

3 limes
3 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 small jalapeño pepper, with seeds, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, plus additional to taste
2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large ( 8-inch) flour tortilla, cut into 2-inch by-1/4-inch strips
Sour cream, for serving
Chopped cilantro, for serving

  1. Squeeze the juice from 1-1/2 of the limes and cut the remaining half into 4 wedges for garnish
  2. In a blender, combine 3 cups of ice water (a mixture of water and ice) with the lime juice, avocados, garlic, jalapeño, and the salt and blend until smooth. Chill the soup until ready to serve.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the tortilla strips and fry until they are crunchy and golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Drain the strips on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt.
  4. Spoon the soup into bowls, and place a dollop of sour cream in the center of each bowl, top with tortilla strips, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges on the side.

Yield: 4 Servings

Carrot Mint Salad With Currants

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
1/4 cup dried currants

  • In a salad bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, mint, and salt to taste. Add the carrots and currants and toss well.

    Yield: 4 servings

    Fresh Corn Polenta With Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
    1 cup coarse ground polenta or corn grits
    1 cup fresh corn kernels

    Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes:
    2 pints cherry tomatoes
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/4 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as a combination of oregano, basil, and parsley)
    Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
    Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

    1. Preheat the oven to 200° F. To prepare the polenta, in a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add the butter and salt. Stir in the polenta and corn and continue to stir until the water returns to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and transfer to the oven to keep warm.
    2. To prepare the tomatoes, place a large skillet (it should be large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer) over high heat. Place the tomatoes, oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in the pan and sauté until the tomatoes soften and begin to exude their juice, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the herbs and sauté for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    3. Divide the polenta among 4 shallow soup plates and spoon the tomatoes on top. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan.

  • Yield: 4 Servings

    Spicy Summer Bean And Chickpea Salad With Harrisa Vinaigrette

    8 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed
    8 ounces green beans, trimmed
    1/2 small red onion, sliced paper thin
    1, 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

    The vinaigrette:
    1 plump clove garlic, peeled
    2 teaspoons cumin seed
    1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seed
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    3 tablespoons lemon juice
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    Coarse sea salt or kosher salt

    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt. When the water resumes a boil add the wax and green beans and boil for 2-3 minutes until crisp tender. Drain the beans and refresh under cold running water. Drain and spread on a clean cotton towel.
    2. Peel the garlic and crush it with the side of a heavy knife. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the seeds in a small skillet over medium heat for 1 minute until they are fragrant and turn a shade darker. Then chop and smear the garlic with the side of your knife until it forms a paste. Transfer the paste to a large serving bowl. Add the lemon juice.
    3. Grind the caraway and cumin seeds and cayenne together in a mortar or electric spice mill. Stir the spices into the lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil.
    4. Add the sliced onion, chickpeas, and cooked beans to the bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and serve.

    Serves 4

    Warm Summer Berries With Whipped Crème Fraîche

    1 pint raspberries
    1 pint blueberries
    1 pint black raspberries
    3 tablespoons sugar, preferably organic washed cane sugar
    1 cup crème fraîche, for serving

    1. In a large skillet, combine the berries and sprinkle them evenly with sugar.
    2. Place the pan over high heat and simmer until the berries exude thier juice but still hold their shape, about 2 minutes
    3. In a chilled bowl, whisk the crème fraîche until soft peaks form. Serve the berries with the crème fraîche.

    Serves 4
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