Photo by Robbie Augspurger

IT STARTS, inevitably, during childhood. Your tastebud-to-brain interface is still forming, and the groundwork for your preferences is being laid. Unless you were raised by parents who grasped the irreplaceable virtues of fresh vegetables, chances are great that at least some of the plant life that arrived on your dinner plate came from a jar, a freezer bag, or a can—patooey. No wonder you hated Brussels sprouts.

Personally, I made enemies early on with shelled peas, cauliflower, and the aforementioned (and by far most offensive) Brussels sprouts, which I swore were being administered as rancid little bombs of punishment (maybe even child abuse?). Each of these wormed their way back into my life eventually, along with formerly foreign entities like kale, kohlrabi, and broccoli rabe. Here's how I vanquished the enemies:

Go fresh or go home: The only store-bought frozen vegetables that should have a place in your kitchen are things you can dump into quick soups (read: the packages of ramen you keep on hand for hungover/sick days), like peas and corn. There is no counter-argument to this.

Enemy #3, peas: A completely different animal in shelled form, sweeter, crunchier, and better in every way than their naked cousins. Eat ’em raw or lightly stir-fried, or get fancy and shell them by hand before adding to a light, cream-based pasta sauce with something salty, like pancetta. They'll still be four billion times better than the pre-shelled frozen variety (see above).

Enemy #2, cauliflower: Honestly, I still have a hard time getting it up for cauliflower. I don't dislike it anymore, but the only way I can muster excitement is if it's naughtily fried (Tiga does this well as a bar snack). Or better yet: Make that shit au gratin. Most commonly a treatment for potatoes, baking it with heavy cream and a nicely browned, cheesy crust works wonders on a variety of the least-popular veggies. In fact a kohlrabi and cauliflower au gratin would be even better.

Enemy #1, Brussels sprouts: Like so many things in life, they're improved with a pork product. Cook with some chopped-up bacon and/or bacon fat, and you'll give that signature farty taste a rich, savory counterpoint. Or go crunchy and vegetarian by sticking to butter or oil fats and adding in slivered almonds. Either way, I highly recommend roasting as your cooking method; it's the best way to result in tender (not mushy) sprouts. Another recent and somewhat surprising discovery is that Brussels sprouts lend themselves quite well to pickling, especially if you go generous on the spice. It's true, though, that this method will yield a mushier result, so if you are ultra-sensitive to... well, kind of slimy food, you may want to try incorporating them into a homemade kimchee as a fermented alternative (also a good way to work in plain old cabbage, which tends to go unsung, as well).

When in doubt, grill it: Summer's coming, which means most of your food should be eaten outside and cooked over fire. Almost any vegetable can be grilled—even counterintuitive stuff like broccoli and romaine lettuce. If it's fresh and in season, most vegetables need only olive oil, good salt, and freshly ground black pepper to bring out their flavor, so feel free to experiment in the coming abundant months.