Vegetables are the food type to watch these days. Compared to days gone by when veggies were a sidekick to meat, produce is finally living it up in the limelight. But these aren’t your classic carrots. Nor are they just for vegetarian customers – au contraire! At this year’s Terroir Food & Wine Festival, chickpea tacos were the talk of the town, stealing the spotlight from typically popular dishes such as smoked meat and sliders.
Important people in the food industry have taken up a love affair with all things leafy and cruciferous. Chef and farmer Dan Barber calls for cooks to max out veggies by using the full vegetable (think nose-to-tail butchery), and get creative with roots, stalks, and peels.
We chose three ingredients for your menu that are worth their hype. Read on for tips on how to incorporate each vegetable into your menu.
Veggie #1: Zucchini
With its tender core and rugged exterior, the zucchini can be found in herbivore dishes all around the world. Its exterior allows the veggie to withstand the heat of a hot grill or oven without falling apart. Slice it in thirds lengthwise, throw it on the grill, add some oil, lemon and salt.
The zucchini also has a big secret: Stroll through your local farmers’ market in the heat of the summer and you might be lucky enough to be let in on it. Yellow edible blossoms. These are not a bouquet for your mother-in-law, these are God’s gift to your patrons’ palate: zucchini flowers. Stuff them with a garlic-ricotta filling and bake them, or deep-fry them soaked in a tempura batter.
Try it: The tender core of a zucchini can be put through a spiralizer, tossed in olive oil, grilled with a small amount of water, and quickly made into pasta. Add this as a veggie-friendly option to your pasta dishes for a simple way to please vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, and even pique the curiosity of meat-eaters, too!
Veggie #2: Cauliflower
This cruciferous vegetable has been hailed by several food writers and recipe developers as the queen of vegetables. It’s a Cinderella story if we’ve ever heard one.
Relatively bland, pale in colour, and not particularly appetizing at first glance, cauliflower has risen from the garden to be a functional staple in vegetarian recipes. From roasted cauliflower “steak” to cauliflower “Buffalo wings”, the texture and subtle flavor makes it ideal for dressing up and replacing classic protein dishes.
Try it: Incorporate this veggie in your menu as a shared appetizer. Chop off the stem, drizzle the head in oil and season it, then bake whole and serve with dip. Guests each get a “slice”. Veggies and foodies will eat it up!
Veggie #3: Brussels Sprouts
For most of us, while we were growing up, the worst possible food was brussels sprouts. The most despised vegetable of all, brussel sprouts had a serious image problem. But things have changed. The problem with brussels sprouts was that we were eating them wrong: frozen, then cooked to mush. We’re happy to report that brussels sprouts are actually delicious!
The little green veggies, part of the cabbage family, can be seasoned to be a divine intervention in any dinner plate and are all over the trendiest of menus from pizza toppings to slaws and salads, brussels sprouts are making up for lost time.
Try it: To integrate them into your menu, add brussel sprouts to your appetizers, or as an upsell alternative to fries. Roast them with butter, spices, or add bacon.
Offer your customers a peek into the tantalizing world of veggies. By embracing all that grows and adding creative variations of vegetables to your menu, you'll appeal to customers who already have veggies on the brain and surprise and delight those who haven't yet found true plant love.
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