Back in the day when cookbook author and New York Times columnist Martha Rose Shulman was looking for a publisher for her vegetarian cookbook, she was told by a publishing house, “We already have a vegetarian cookbook.”
How far things have come since then! Vegetable-forward, veggie-centric—however you call it, vegetables have come to the fore of the consciousness and even to the center of the plate in some cases.
Three chefs, April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin), Amanda Cohen (Dirt Candy), and Franklin Becker (Little Beet, Little Beet Table), weighed in on vegetables.
April Bloomfield has recently written a second cookbook, “A Girl and Her Greens.” “A lot of people know I cook pork. I wanted to show them I love vegetables,” she said.
Meat does make its way in, judiciously. She uses anchovies, bacon, or bacon fat “to fortify the vegetables and take them to a different place.”
Like her head-to-tail philosophy, you’ll find her using as many parts of the vegetables as possible, like carrot tops in a pesto. “I’m respectful. I cook using everything.”
To make vegetables exciting is not necessarily easy. The difference between meat and vegetables? “Vegetables have one texture,” Amanda Cohen said. She brings a variety of techniques to bear on vegetables.
For example, portobello is turned into a silky mousse, accompanied with sautéed Asian pears and truffle toast. Carrots are pickled and turned out with peanut mole sauce on carrot waffles.
She notes that 75 percent of her customers aren’t vegan or vegetarian.
Franklin Becker, who is opening seven restaurants this year, loves vegetables. “I think they make the world go round.”
And he seems to love root vegetables in particular. Through HungryRoot.com, he sells gluten-free spiralized noodles made of rutabagas, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, with accompanying sauces like creamy cashew alfredo.