Versatile Vegetables

Versatile Vegetables

Versatile Vegetables — Lean, Seen… (and some Green)!

Consider various preparation methods, which can enhance the depth of flavor.
– Chef Mark Sobczak of Newly Weds Foods

Move over kale – there are lots of other vegetables stepping up to the plate!

Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard are now moving quickly onto center stage. Heirloom, root, and seasonal vegetables are also growing in popularity. As a versatile ingredient or star of the plate, it seems vegetables are becoming the hottest thing on the menu. Cooking methods can vary, making vegetables even more nutritious and better tasting. Not only do they provide the health halo consumers demand and operators want, they offer a world of flavorful menu options as well as greater cost savings.

Vegetables as the new protein

Chefs are looking at vegetables in whole new ways, using them for both center of the plate as well as appetizers, sides, even desserts. A Food Network article entitled, Vegetables are the New Meat, mentions that cauliflower is now served as steak (cauliflower ribeye with compound butter), as wings (Buffalo cauliflower) and as noodles (mac and cheese). Vegetables are even barbecued, with applications such as smoked carrots, squash “ribs” and planked zucchini.

Size matters

Whether small plates or sample size accompaniments, vegetables go a long way to create lighter fare options on the menu. “The produce that’s growing in small plates tends to mirror the produce trends overall — kale, butternut squash and chiles,” said Maeve Webster, senior director at the market research firm, Datassential in a December 13 article in Culinology entitled, Fitter Food Service Fare Coming into Focus. “You’ll find them not just on the light menu, it’s across the board,” she added. “Consider using generous portions of mushrooms that can add meaty texture without extra fat,” recommends a menu development expert at a national chain. “At another upscale restaurant, a starter of fire-grilled artichokes is sized for sharing.”

Versatile cooking techniques add character and flavor

At Newly Weds Foods, our professional chefs are creating new recipes with popular vegetables and alternative cooking methods. “Consider various preparation methods, which can enhance the depth of flavor,” said Chef Mark Sobczak of Newly Weds Foods. Umami is required to take the place of more costly protein ingredients. By roasting, grilling, smoking, deep-frying, sautéing or the use of a wood fired or brick oven, you can make vegetables the star.” He continued, “Using fresh zucchini, potatoes and onions grilled and sautéed with barley is a great way to let the natural flavor come through. Utilizing different seasoning or sauces with the vegetables is a way of adding character and flavor. Guests are looking for that elusive craveable flavor. But don’t over salt the vegetables.”

Greens and grains

As the trend towards healthier eating builds, operators are coming up with new ways to create menu excitement. Blending fresh healthy vegetables with super grains like quinoa, wheatberry and barley is experiencing a kind of renaissance because of their outstanding health qualities as well as versatility. One adventurous operator has created the Inside Out Quinoa Burger, which features two quinoa-based patties sandwiching hummus, tzatziki, tomato, red onion, cucumber, avocado and feta. The idea of combining greens and grains offers limitless new taste sensations.

Menu sightings

From national chains to small bistros, new ideas are cropping up that demonstrate creativity and imagination. An Avocado Deviled Egg, featuring a mixture of sieved egg, avocado purée (avocado, water, salt, lemon juice), Dijon mustard, ancho/chipotle powder, lime juice and cilantro is gaining a lot of attention in Cleveland. So is a bar bite of maple-roasted Brussels sprouts called “little sachets of love.”

Another national chain wanted to create a battered vegetable as an appetizer or side dish. After extensive experimentation, they developed light buttermilk breading for their popular Portobello Mushroom and Zucchini Fries.

Fried Dill Pickles are another crisp new menu option. Popular in the South, these pickles are sliced lengthwise and then fried to a golden brown. They’re served as both an appetizer or as a side dish, usually accompanied with ranch dressing or other creamy sauce for dipping.

Vegetables move into unexpected places

Peruse the trendy menus and you’ll also find vegetables in beverages and desserts. Cucumber sorbet, avocado smoothies and kale cocktails are some surprising offerings, along with beet chocolate flourless cake.

No question, chefs are jumping on the vegetables bandwagon and this trend shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. If you’re looking for some unique new ingredient ideas, look no further than your own backyard…garden that is!

Read more about what others are saying about the Vegetables Trend below: