the familiar phrase, "eat your vegetables" echoes
from your past, youll be glad to know that today there's
even more reason to enjoy them. Whether organic, seasonal,
exotic, or humble favorites, vegetables are better than ever.
to this the flood of recent news about the bounty of nutrients
that vegetables deliver, and you know Mom was right. No wonder
vegetables are becoming one of the most exciting and creative
elements on the contemporary chefs palette.
More and more diners are asking for them, and the requests
are not just from vegetarians. These days, it seems people
really like eating deliciously prepared vegetables.
their presence in foodservice menus is on the rise. According
to the June 2002 issue of Restaurants USA ("Vegetables
Flourish in Restaurants"), 9 percent of entrees or main-dish
salads were primarily comprised of vegetables in 2001. Vegetarian
entrees accounted for 1.5 percent of entrees or main-dish
salads in 2001. And most of the remaining entrees included
at least one vegetable or small salad last year.
establishments want to cater to their diners' interest in
healthy eating, and serving vegetables is one way to do this.
A spot check of menus around the country not only reveals
familiar favorites being used in exciting new ways. but a
major move toward maximizing local, seasonal sources to address
diners' demands for freshness and flavor.
talked with Stephen B. Window, Executive Chef of Tamarindo,
Prime Ten Steakhouse, and Roppongi Restaurant,
Bar and Café, in La Jolla, CA, where his hibachi-grilled
asparagus is a popular menu item. When asked what trends he's
seeing, Chef Window says beets are back. He likes to roast
them with olive oil and kosher salt and serve in them salads.
Window also sees baby carrots back on the scene, after a hiatus
of three or four years. He likes to blanch and slice them
thinly and use them as a garnish in braised oxtail stew. He
prefers them for their sweetness, which out-rivals that of
their larger cousins.
to year-round availability, Window can keep items such as
asparagus, beets, and baby carrots on the menu, but he also
takes advantage of heirloom tomatoes when in season. He serves
them sliced, then sprinkled with a little Hawaiian sea salt
and a drizzle of pumpkin oil to bring out their natural flavor.
Tanaka, Executive Chef for Etta's Seafood, Dahlia Lounge,
and Palace Kitchen in Seattle, Washington says that
he gets his produce from small, local farmers throughout the
Pacific Northwest. Tanaka points out that diners, many of
whom regularly scout farmers markets themselves, are increasingly
looking for freshness and taste in menu items.
insure the best, Tanaka holds "seed meetings" with
farmers at key times throughout the year, during which they
collaboratively peruse catalogs and pick out produce varieties
that grow well locally. From farms in the warmer climate of
Eastern Washington, Tanaka gets heirloom tomatoes and herbs;
farmers to the north, on cooler Lopez Island, provide him
with lettuces and beans. Tanaka enjoys mutually beneficial
relationships with local purveyors such as Horsedrawn Farm,
which grows high-quality organic produce on eight acres using
and his purveyors are adventurous and experimental; if a product
doesnt work, they'll delete it and revise their plan
for the following season. And when Tanaka discovers something
new and interesting in the produce world, he'll find a way
to use it. For instance, he recently discovered a local source
of hop sprouts, which he served pickled to accompany a crab
dish for a menu he created in conjunction with Seattle-based
nutrition information and some great ideas on using vegetables,
check out the following:
Produce Marketing Association website (http://www.pma.com/)
includes an "Organic Produce Fact Sheet," a member
newsletter called "This Week in Produce," and lots
of other produce-related information and services.
both aboutproduce.com (http://www.aboutproduce.com/),
and Eat 5 a Day for Better Health(http://www.5aday.com/),
you'll find recipes and the latest health and nutrition information.
Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide, by Elizabeth
Schneider (William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1998) is packed
with information on ways to use exotic and unusual vegetables.
You can find it, along with other books on vegetables, at
StarChefs Cookbook Store (http://starchefs.com/Cookbooks/Cookbooks.html).
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