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The Crisper Whisperer: How Do you Make Veggies Joyful?

You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays with ideas preparing the abundance of fruits and vegetables you might get from your CSA or the market. —The Mgmt.

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[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

Sitting in a booth at my local Whole Foods during a bustling lunchtime the other day, I tried hard not to let the groans of pleasure escape my lips too audibly. Palak paneer, red lentil dal, lemon rice. Even from the hot-foods bar at a supermarket halfway around the world, eaten with a disposable fork out of a self-consciously compostable cardboard box, vegetarian Indian food can be so good it puts me over the edge. Meat could not have been less crucial to my happiness that day.

That same shopping trip, I picked up the gorgeous little tomatoes in the photo above, which Whole Foods had sourced from a local farm. Just looking at those little buggers makes me smile.

This summer has been veggie-heavy and meat-light for me and my family. I'm a deep believer that summer food should be joyful. (Shouldn't all food, when you come right down to it?) So I've been giving a lot of thought these days to ways of imbuing vegetables and vegetarian food with the same joy factor that would come from tossing a bunch of burgers and dogs on the grill.

As you've probably gathered by now, I think produce is pretty wonderful, so it's not that I need to be convinced of its general awesomeness. It's just that so many of the happy-food traditions that many of us are accustomed to partaking in during the summer—barbecues, ball games, street fairs, and the like—have a lot to do with meat. Sometimes it feels like you have to work a little harder to give veggies and vegetarian food the same relaxed, happy vibe. Starting new traditions can be fun, but it isn't always easy.

We've been marinating and grilling all sorts of veggies this summer, eating tomatoes straight from the backyard, running over to Whole Foods at lunchtime for our supermarket Indian food fix, and generally trying not to take ourselves too seriously, at least until the official start of fall.

What have you all been doing to keep it smiley with the vegetables this summer? Do you have favorite ways to make veggies fun and festive and avoid an overly earnest vegetarian meal? Share them in the comments before summer officially fades away!

About the author: Carolyn Cope writes Umami Girl and manages a CSA in New Jersey.

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